Local Hero Salute: Bozeman woman works to help homeless


Local Hero Salute: Bozeman woman works to help homeless 3-29-13

BOZEMAN, Mont. - "Jen's helped me out tremendously," said Robert Riley, about Open Arms Drop-in Center worker Jen Collins.

Collins works as the Homeless Outreach Peer Support Specialist. She connects homeless people with resources and support, spends time at the Community Cafe and Warming Center and volunteers.

"She'll get calls in the middle of the night and she actually gets up in the middle of the night," said Open Arms volunteer Thelma Minnick.

Those around her say she goes above and beyond to help the people she works with get back on their feet.

"If someone's sleeping under a bridge or in a tent, she'll connect them to HRDC and help them make their appointments and provide them transportation to make those appointments and be an advocate in their corner," said co-worker Diana Willis.

And they say she has fun while doing it. "She's a great person to work with," Minnick said.

That's why they say she's a local hero.

"She rescued us basically," Riley said. He's transitioning out of homelessness. He said he has Jen to thank. She gave him a bike to get around on, and a positive attitude to help him through the rough time.

"I wouldn't have the inspiration to try as much," Riley said. "I probably would have just floated down the road and stayed on the same track."

They say it's her passion and big heart that make her so special.

"What I think makes her so great is the message of hope that she delivers- hope to recovery, and hope to a better way of life," Willis said.

To Jen, her work is a no-brainer. She said she once overcame homelessness- and wants to help others do the same.

"If you see someone that needs something and you can offer it- why don't you do it?" Jen asked.

Though Jen doesn't think of herself as a hero- everyone she works with says the community wouldn't be the same without her.

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