Montana Public Radio

Billings Montana

Social services in Billings are opening a temporary shelter to meet the city’s need for isolated sleeping spaces as COVID-19 cases rise and temperatures drop.

The Off the Streets Shelter just north of downtown Billings is the creation of local healthcare and social service organizations in a coalition aimed at decreasing homelessness in the area.

Yellowstone County Continuum of Care expects the 50 to 60 person capacity at the former Western Inn to handle any overflow of people seeking a space to sleep at local shelters over the next year.

Violent crime in Montana’s most populated county has been on the rise since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Reports police say a majority of the increase in violent crime is connected to drug use.

Yellowstone County law enforcement officials say from March through July violent crime rose nearly 21 percent compared to the same time period last year.

"This means we had 67 more violent crimes and 67 more victims during that time. And the crimes are more serious. With murders, shootings, stabbings and a 44 percent increase in robberies," said U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme.

A federal agency proposed granting superfund status to an area of Billings, Mont. contaminated by dry cleaning chemicals.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Sept. 1 announced it’ll recommend a roughly 855 acre area in Billings be added to the National Priorities List as a federal Superfund site.

Officials say the plume could affect around 1,100 structures in central and downtown Billings.

EPA project manager Roger Hoogerheide says if the site wins federal superfund status the agency will conduct indoor air investigations.

The investigation continues into an alleged arson at a fire station just outside of Kalispell.
Flickr user Ariane Middel (CC-BY-2.0)

Montana's most populous county has seen a sharp increase in violent crime since the coronavirus pandemic began, driven by more domestic abuse and drug-related crimes, federal and local authorities said Tuesday.

The superintendent of the largest school district in Montana announced a middle school principal in Billings will remain in her position after being disciplined for offensive posts on social media.

Billings Superintendent Greg Upham says a July investigation into posts made to Medicine Crow Middle School Principal Nikki Hofmann’s husband’s Facebook account found Hofmann has been supportive of all students.

MMIW Cold Case Office Opens In Billings

Aug 7, 2020

A federal office to investigate cold cases of missing and murdered Indigenous people opened in Billings on Aug. 6.

The office is part of the Trump Administration’s Operation Lady Justice Task Force.

Montana is one of seven states to get a Cold Case Task Force office aimed at solving the high number of cases involving missing and murdered Native American people. It’s the latest step in slow moving systemic change spurred by grassroots efforts in communities with significant Native American populations, like Billings.

Residents in some of Montana's larger cities are calling for police departments to revise use of force policy and bolster social services in the wake of several high profile instances of police violence against people of color.

Some departments say they’re already doing much of what’s being called for but they’re open to change.

On June 7, more than a thousand people marched through Billings, Montana’s biggest city, to raise awareness about racially charged police violence in the United States.

The novel coronavirus.
Centers For Disease Control and Prevention

On Monday, Yellowstone County health officials announced two more deaths have been tied to an outbreak of coronavirus at a Canyon Creek Memory Care in Billings. Including the weekend deaths, 12 of the facility’s residents raise the facility’s residents have died from the respiratory virus in the past two weeks.

A newly formed group in southeast Montana is drumming up support to add and improve river access, camping and roads along more than 160 miles of the Yellowstone River.

The Lower Yellowstone River Coalition formed earlier this year to support economic development and expand tourism along the river corridor east of Billings.

Care Home Refused Free Tests. Now, Nearly Everyone Has Virus

Jul 14, 2020
On June 24, assisted living businesses and workers asked the Montana Legislature to increase payments for day-to-day services for seniors and people with disabilities.

It was meant to be a last line of defense to protect the most vulnerable as the coronavirus spread across the United States: Montana officials offered free testing in May for staff and residents at assisted living and long-term care facilities.

But not all of them followed through, according to state data, including a facility in Billings that cares for people with dementia and other memory problems.

The virus has infected almost every resident there and killed eight, accounting for almost a quarter of Montana's 34 confirmed deaths. Thirty-six employees also have tested positive.