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More People Will Move Into Downtown Billings If The Homeless Move Out

I live on Montana Avenue and there are homeless people sleeping in the doorways every night. This afternoon a gentleman drinking a beer in a paper bag tripped and fell in front of my apartment building and laid there in his own blood until American Medical Response showed up. From time to time I’ve seen men using the big cement planter box in front of my apartment building as a toilet and it seems like the numbers of people lining up outside St. Vincent’s Charity office and the Montana Rescue mission continue to grow.

If you’ll recall, a decade or two ago, Montana Avenue (and much of downtown Billings) used to be skid row. Thanks to gentrification more and more people are moving back into downtown. Unfortunately the homeless don’t seem to be shrinking in numbers and I wonder at what point people will stop moving downtown. I’m very sensitive to their plight but of course the best ways to solve the issue is through jobs and increased mental health funding. That said I wonder if it might be better to re-locate the mission, charity office and the HUB to areas further to the edge of downtown where they won’t provide a barrier to continued development. A vibrant downtown is usually the hallmark of all great cities and until this issue is dealt with I fear great organizations like the Downtown Billings Association will be constantly swimming upstream in their efforts to help downtown Billings live up to it’s amazing potential.

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