ASHLAND, MT—Due to an unexpected accident which caused structural damage, about twenty Northern Cheyenne elders, residents of the Heritage Living Center, Ashland, MT will find themselves living in motel rooms in either Billings or Livingston, MT, many miles from the Northern Cheyenne Reservation for some months.
According to a press release issued on Thursday night, February 2, Heritage Living Center, an assisted living home located in Ashland, Montana, suffered significant water damage causing the evacuation of its residents.
The damage was a result of what is believed to be extreme temperature fluctuations over a 72-hour period causing fire suppression system pipes to shift and break causing flooding on the second and first floors of the facility. Significant water damage and collapsed ceilings in some areas caused Administrator, Jerry Thex, to evacuate the residents and shut down heating and electricity until the building was deemed safe.
At this time, Heritage Living Center is closed to residents and visitors and all but essential staff until further notice.
Mr. Thex issued the following statement: “I want to reassure you that the residents are safe and are being well taken care of by the staff that are with them. They are nearby motels where their needs are being met. I want to be clear that we are not closing the facility. We did have a major sprinkler line break, which flooded some of the building. For the safety of the residents’ well-being, I evacuated them to a safe place. The residents were able to get clothes out of their apartments and some personal hygiene items. At this time, we are uncertain of when we will be bringing the residents back, due to the circumstances and the extent of the repair that needs to be completed.”
Heritage Living Center is operated by Soaring Eagle, a charity founded by Father Emmett Hoffmann (1926-2013) with a mission to provide assisted living care for the Northern Cheyenne elders and seniors in and around the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in southeastern Montana. Soaring Eagle and Heritage Living Center are unique among most assisted-living homes in that residents are not charged for room, board, and personalized care. No government funds, including Medicaid and Medicare, are accepted to pay for resident’s care. No tribal funding is provided to Soaring Eagle. Soaring Eagle is not affiliated with any church or denomination. All funds to operate Heritage Living Center come from donors located in all fifty states and some foreign countries who make philanthropic donations.
The expense of relocation and temporary housing will be covered by the Heritage Living Center, a nonprofit organization which administers an elderly housing complex for Northern Cheyenne and other homeless elders in the small community of Ashland, MT, adjacent to the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, MT.
The Heritage Living Center is a very well-equipped elder living complex, due to the efforts of the late Father Emmet, a well-loved and highly regarded Catholic priest who served the Northern Cheyenne for many decades through the St. Labre Indian Mission.
Throughout his service, Father Emmet collaborated with many Cheyenne elders and Chiefs, such as Clarence Spotted Wolf.
They mutually agreed that a living center for elderly Northern Cheyenne tribal members was needed, for several reasons. There is an extreme housing shortage on the reservation, causing many generations to get stacked together in what was designed for a single family; elders are sometimes abused by those seeking money, prescription drugs and exposing elders to alcohol/drug or domestic abuse problems. That is not always the case, but too often happens.
Thus, Father Emmet, a champion fund raiser established the Soaring Eagle non-profit, specifically to generate funds to develop an elderly living center. Finally, with significant funds in hand, that objective was achieved, the Heritage Living Center having served the Northern Cheyenne since 2002.
It offers 40 individual apartments to seniors who have mobility. The facility has many amenities such as a very large and friendly reception area featuring an arts and crafts shop offering elders opportunity to gain extra income; a small chapel; game rooms with nooks for jigsaw puzzle making, card playing or just old fashioned visiting over a warm cup of tea; a wonderful dining room where three meals per day are served and the soup and salad bar are ever available to those who might be late sleepers. If a resident does not show up for meals for some time, the staff will check in upon them to ensure they are okay.
The meals are nutritious and plentiful, even with the option of selecting one of two entrees each day. In addition, guests can come for a modest price of $5.00 per meal, one of the best dining deals in that small community.
Transportation is also provided to elders for medical appointments and regular “fun” trips are scheduled for Walmart shoppers who need to go to Billings or Sheridan, WY. And of course, residents can get rides to local powwows or other events. And, if they still have wheels of their own, residents can come and go wherever they want to go. It is also possible to have overnight guests, such as grandchildren or other friends.
Northern Cheyenne elders are extremely fortunate to have the opportunity, through Heritage Living Center to spend their golden years in a peaceful environment, with good hearted people catering to their needs. Other well intended people looking for a worthwhile cause, might consider the Heritage Living Center as an option. Their website can be easily found by googling Heritage Living Center, Ashland, MT. (Contact Clara Caufield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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