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Billings Connecting Homeless to Resources

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Those who are homeless or are struggling had a place to go to connect with resources in town.

Billings Community Connect is an annual event that brings together homeless service providers to help those in need. The Shrine Auditorium was lined with informational booths and even a store to provide participants with clothing and hygiene items.

"The people that are struggling everyday grow every year," said Karla Maslowski, Billings Community Connect board chair. "We see that numbers keep increasing as far as people who need to connect with agencies to get a hand up versus a hand out."

An annual survey by Welcome Home Billings showed nearly 800 people didn't have a place to live last year in January. That's a five percent increase from 2012.

The event's not just for those without a home though. It's for anyone who's struggling to keep their independence.

"People really just need that chance and that's why I think it's a great that we have so many non-profits that work so hard here in Billings to provide those resources," said Shelby Barron, a volunteer.

Volunteers say it's a good way to enrich the community and show that people care.

"For me, it's an opportunity to make a personal connection and offer some very personalized service," said Pam Makara, the event's volunteer coordinator. "They seem to be very eager to accept help and always so very grateful for the help that you are willing to take a few minutes to give to them and for me that's very powerful."

Organizers say they brought together more service providers than ever before. 51 organizations were there.