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'Help these kids': Montana bakery steps up to fight teen homelessness

Godwin Baker
Posted at 8:21 AM, Jan 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-12 10:21:17-05

Red Rooster Kitchen offered a discount during the holidays for any customer who brought in donations for homeless teens in an effort to fight the growing problem in Montana.

Megan Begger knows all too well what it's like being homeless as a teen in Montana. That was her reality six years ago when she was just 17 years old and living out of her car.

Fortunately for Begger, that's now a distant reality, as she now is a business owner and runs Octopus Ink on Grand Avenue in Billings.

"It was hard, and I was lucky enough to have a car to live in," Begger said. "A lot of people don’t have anywhere to go."

While Begger managed to turn her life around, statistics from a local group fighting teen homelessness show a rising number of teens in the Billings area struggling to find a place to live.

It's an issue that Donna Godwin, the owner of Red Rooster Kitchen in Laurel just learned about.

“We just very recently learned through Facebook, that the Laurel High School here has got a pretty substantial amount of homeless teenagers,” Godwin said.

During the holidays, Godwin and her crew of employees chose to try and be a part of the solution.

“This community has put us where we’re at and made us who we are, and we need to give back to them in any way we can,” Godwin said.

Red Rooster Kitchen offered a 20% discount to any customer who brought in clothing or blankets for homeless teens, and the response was outstanding.

“We had so much that we had to make two different drops to the locations," Godwin said. "Probably half of the people who brought stuff didn’t even take advantage of the 20% off."

Some of the donations were brought to Tumbleweed, a safe place in Billings for the homeless youth to go for food, laundry, or just a roof over their head. Executive Director at Tumbleweed Georgia Cady said donations like those from Red Rooster are what make it possible for them to do their job.

“One caring adult, one ability to have a hot meal can change the trajectory of a person’s life,” Cady said.

Cady also said that the problem of homeless teens has skyrocketed this past year. According to numbers she provided, Tumbleweed has helped 787 different cases in 2022 for homeless people in Yellowstone County under the age of 25 — a 54% increase in those types of cases a year ago.

Teen Homeless

These numbers are exactly why Godwin vows to do what she can to help solve the problem in Yellowstone County and beyond.

“We’re pretty comfortable in our homes so we don’t think about that stuff, but it’s out there. It’s out there," Godwin said. "So, I just say be aware, get out there and help these kids, and do whatever you can in your community."

And Begger knows that these types of people can make a huge difference.

"Those places are pretty much the only chance some of those kids have,” Begger said.