Late morning marked the beginning of our community cleanups, and despite the  heat, the atmosphere remained positive. The effort kicked off at Cruise Park, moved behind God’s Love, and concluded at the tunnel near Anchor Park.

This event was a remarkable display of camaraderie and interdepartmental cooperation. Leading the charge were Jacqueline, Our Place Program Manager, and Mikayla, Peer Support Specialist from Our Place, who kept everything running smoothly. Alongside our dedicated staff were numerous volunteers, many of whom are Our Place Peers and have experienced or are currently experiencing homelessness. In fact, the idea for Our Place’s participation in the cleanups came from these Peers!

The cleanup crew also included members of the Helena Police Department (HPD) and the Parks Department, with the latter providing trucks for trash removal. Both HPD and Parks Department staff worked alongside the volunteers. hese cleanups are not about displacing people but about making parks and public areas clean and safe for everyone, including our unhoused neighbors. We do not discard personal belongings—only trash. In fact, the tunnel cleanup had started well before our arrival, with the temporary residents leading by example!

For years, the Parks Department has been organizing these cleanups. Pat from the Parks Department mentioned that in the last 4-5 years, the number of people trying to set up more permanent residences in the parks has skyrocketed. With the addition of the Our Place team, we can help address this issue by connecting people with resources to get off the streets and into supportive environments.

Throughout the morning, Mikayla and Jacqueline frequently reminded people to collect their mail from Our Place—an essential service for those without a permanent address and encouraged folks to head down to Our Place for food and more. They knew everyone by name, as did the HPD and Parks Department staff, and provided compassionate support during the cleanup. They balanced firm instructions, like “Yes, you have to clean this up,” with genuine concern, asking, “How are you doing?” and “What do you need?”

This event was a kind and collaborative effort from all parties involved. While there were a few dissenting voices, the gratitude from those helped far outweighed the negativity. We recognize that there is no perfect solution to this complex issue. People deserve a safe place to sleep, and everyone deserves clean parks to enjoy—whether they are housed or not. We are committed to expanding our reach and programs to connect those in need with the help they require.

We extend a special thank you to the Our Place Peers who volunteered—Brandon, Stuart, William, and Jay (some preferred to remain unnamed)—as well as the staff at Our Place, the Helena Police Department, the Parks Department, and the Sanitation Department. This is the third cleanup Our Place Peers have participated in, and these events have become a huge part of their recovery group, giving them a sense of purpose and vital community connection.

We would also like to extend a huge thank you to Judge Peterson for providing a reduction in fines to those who participated in the cleanup.

If you have questions about these cleanups, how to get involved with our Ministries, or have a suggestion of a place to clean up please feel free to reach out at: [email protected]


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