Do you know your HRDC?

Saturday Apr. 1st, 2017

What does it mean to create and maintain a sustainable community? According to Local Initiative Support Community, or LISC, “Sustainable communities are places that offer the resources and environment all residents need in order to participate in their neighborhoods, live safely and in health, learn, build assets and take part in the mainstream economy.” Local non-profit organization HRDC Builds a Better Community by providing wrap-around services in the areas of housing, food and nutrition, child and youth development, senior empowerment, community transportation, home heating and weatherization, and community development.

Often referred to as our “community’s safety net”, HRDC is a local non-profit Community Action Agency that leads the way in connecting resources, creating innovative solutions and changing lives. A little History….   The foundation of HRDC began in 1964 with the declaration on the War Against Poverty. Community Action Agencies began to take shape with HRDC establishing services in 1975 to serve Gallatin, Park and Meagher Counties. HRDC’s mission is to Build a Better Community focuses on moving the needle on poverty by offering resources and creating opportunities to empower people to truly change their lives.  

Staying focused and current community needs is vital to fulfilling our mission. Every three years we embarks on a comprehensive Community Needs Assessment. HRDC is solely focused on local priorities and engages the entire community in the creation of the Needs Assessment. This Assessment, a key tool to addressing the most pressing needs in the communities we serve, yields a unique relationship between HRDC and the customers served. HRDC’s family of services are all uniquely designed to identify and address need in the community. The data from the Assessment translates into our strategic plan that guides us in tackling the underlying issues affecting our community.

HRDC’s innovative approach to community needs goes back to the very beginning. Highlighted below are three HRDC’s initiatives that are highly sustainable, in terms of viability, longevity, and environmental stewardship: Transportation Services, Senior Services and Housing.

HRDC’s first approach to addressing transportation barriers was born from a Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) initiative to provide educational and entertainment opportunities and to, according to an article published in 1973, “…visit the sick and shut-ins…so these older folks can live in their homes longer without need of hospitals or nursing homes.” What began in a storeroom with Director Ken Baldwin and one support staff quickly grew into a full service door to door transportation provider called Galavan.

Galavan provides door to door transportation to senior citizens, persons with disabilities, and lower income populations. With six buses operating daily, Galavan ensures people have access to the services they need to maintain their health and independence. Galavan is an important resource for local partner, Reach, Inc. On average, 22 Reach customers are provided with 570 rides a month via Galavan. A typical route includes stops at our Gallatin Valley Food Bank, Warming Center, the Community Café, multiple stops at the Bozeman Senior Center and local business, and life-saving rides to critical medical appointments such as chemotherapy and dialysis.

Past Needs Assessments identified transportation as one of the greatest barriers to self-sufficiency. This finding initiated HRDC’s involvement in the creation of Streamline. The yellow buses are designed to mimic the historic Yellowstone National Park buses.  Although the first ride was provided in August of 2006, the inception dates back to a 1986 feasibility study by the MSU College of Engineering. Currently, 60% of Streamline users are faculty, staff, or students at Montana State University. The remaining riders utilize this service for employment, shopping, volunteering, appointments or late-night service down town.  

Recipient of numerous transit awards, Streamline operates 16 buses, providing daily transportation services to and from Livingston, Belgrade, and Four Corners. In 2007, Streamline formed a successful partnership with Bohart Ranch and Bridger Bowl, providing weekend services to and from the Bridger Mountains.

Between April 2015 and March 2016, Streamline provided the following 305,284 rides amounting to a savings of over $700,000 in fuel costs for community members. Streamline is successful in decreasing traffic, emissions, and gas usage—keeping our valley beautiful and our roads safe.  

The roots of HRDC’s transportation initiatives can be tied back to caring for our senior citizens. A core value is ensuring our grandparents and your grandparents have their needs met and are able to age with the dignity and respect they deserve. We continue to see an increase in this vulnerable population and served over 1,800 seniors in the past year. Currently, 12.6 % of all seniors in Southwest Montana live at 150% below the federal poverty line. With such a limited income, many of our seniors are forced to choose between purchasing necessary medications, nutritious food, or adequately heating their homes during the coldest months of the winter.

How do we help our seniors? HRDC provides wrap around services to help seniors remain self-sufficient and engaged within the community. We have dedicated Service Navigators who work side by side with seniors to empower them stay engaged in their community, and healthy and safe within their home. Our Navigators negotiate the complex eligibility and application processes to access resources such as affordable housing, energy assistance, food security and home care. These dedicated community advocates care for our friends and neighbors with grace and dignity.

HRDC provides an avenue for our seniors to stay active and give back to their community. RSVP, or Retired Senior Volunteer Program, is one of the largest contingent of volunteer organizations in the nation. RSVP volunteers currently serve over 67 community organizations and can be seen proudly serving within the Museum of the Rockies, American Red Cross, Bozeman Health and Meals on Wheels. Between January and December of 2016, 734 RSVP volunteers contributed 75,523.58 hours of meaningful and impactful services in Gallatin and Park Counties.

RSVP truly changes lives and empowers seniors to remain actively engaged in our community. Volunteer Dorothy Roeder was introduced to RSVP on May 15th 1975 after her husband passed away. At 97 years young, Dorothy continues to make an impact through volunteering and recorded 75 hours during the month of February, 2017. Dorothy proudly holds a volunteer record for her astounding 33,508 volunteer hours served during her RSVP tenure.

Providing transportation, healthy food, and keeping seniors engages are just a few of the puzzle pieces that allow our seniors to age in place.  The Home Maker program provides seniors with vital in-home services such as grocery shopping, meal planning and prep, light housekeeping, medication management, and wound care. Home Maker services enable vulnerable seniors to remain in their homes, without having to bear the often overwhelming expense of nursing home care or private nursing care. The comparative cost savings of remaining in home with assistance versus private nursing home care are illustrated below:

HRDC Homemaker Program: $135/month
In Home Health Care or Private Homemaker Services: $4,385/month
Nursing Home – Semi-private Room: $6,387/month

Affordable housing is a need that challenges the majority of HRDC customers. Finding and maintain affordable housing is a constant struggle.  Homelessness is a reality for an increasing number of men, women, and children in our community every year. The majority of our homeless community members are born and raised in Montana and are employed or in school. HRDC works hard to address all housing needs from homelessness to homeownership.

Housing First Village (HFV) is HRDC’s newest housing initiative.  HFV is a collaboration between HRDC, St. James Episcopal Church and the MSU School of Architecture. This innovative housing concept will fill a critical gap in the continuum of housing already provided by HRDC and our community partners. HFV will support and bolster existing critical services provided by the Warming Center and transitional housing opportunities.

The Housing First model is used successfully nation-wide to address the needs of hard to house individuals. The St. James Episcopal Church Deacon, Connie Campbell-Pearson, along with MSU architecture Professor Ralph Johnson, agree this initiative shows enormous promise and jumped on board. Because of the extensive experience in the Housing First continuum, HRDC became an integral part of this process.

 According to Professor Johnson, senior level architecture students will, “…engaged in site design, further development of the building design, coordinating with the City of Bozeman on zoning and building requirements and the University with regard to construction space.”

The Housing First Village team plan to build 15 houses initially, and will eventually build nearly 50 tiny homes. These homes will be approximately 160 square feet, will cost under $10,000 to build, and will utilize donated materials and labor. They will be conveniently located near public transportation hubs, health centers and social service opportunities. As tiny homes have a smaller footprint, their construction uses far less building materials, electricity, and emits significantly levels of carbon dioxide.

Over the past 41 years HRDC has been honored to be a part of countless success stories. Each day the staff of 120 plus employee work together with customers to connect them with the tools and resources they need to create a better life. We work with partners and leaders to create the opportunities our customers need to succeed. We know that with tools, support and advocacy, our community comes together to light a path to sustainability and achievement. Learn more about all of HRDC at