On Friday night, Dean Decent and Beau Azure slept at a park when the weather was 18 degrees.

"We didn’t have sleeping bags or nothing, so we were just laying on the ground," Decent said.

When the weather turned bitterly cold, they went to local emergency rooms to get warm, and stayed until they got kicked out. They finally found a church and slept in the bushes.

Jeff Fandrich spent his Friday night in a similar fashion. He rolled out a sleeping bag near the now-closed Ruth Meiers Hospitality House's men's emergency shelter, where he laid in the wet grass until it got too cold to bear.

He then went to a diner, where a kind waitress gave him a hot bowl of soup and let him stay past closing time. After that a gas station clerk, too, was nice enough to let him warm up inside. He eventually slept in another homeless man's car outside the former emergency shelter, 305 N. 23rd St.

Friday's closure of the emergency shelter has forced several homeless men back onto the streets. And with snow expected this week, many are desperately looking for any place to stay.

Terry Pierson, a former shelter resident, has been staying with friends at Ruth Meiers' main facility, 1100 E. Boulevard Ave., and with another friend at the emergency shelter's apartments, which tenants can occupy until Nov. 17.

"I've got plenty of friends," said Pierson, who drives people around in his car to make some extra cash.

Over the weekend, Pierson got a call from a woman and three men who had no place to stay and needed a ride to a park so they could sleep.

Former shelter residents said there are others who are making the outdoor parks their homes.

“It is what it is; that’s all I can say. I can’t change it; I can’t do anything but just live with it and adapt and overcome," Decent said.

On Saturday, Fandrich, Decent and Azure were able to stay at a motel, thanks to a donation distributed by a local non-profit organization. They were allowed to stay until Monday, but Pierson bought the men an extra night.

United Way received a generous donation that allowed the agency to assist with hotel rooms over the weekend as temperatures dropped, said Jena Gullo, executive director for Missouri Slope Areawide United Way.

"We were not going to allow people to sleep out in the cold,” Gullo said.

However, the United Way has a limited amount of funding for the temporary crisis plan. The agency also has a case manager who is meeting with individuals to help identify a safe place for them to transition, she said.

In addition, United Way is working with Youthworks to identify a location where an emergency shelter can be established this winter, Gullo said.

Heartview Foundation, which is in the process of purchasing the emergency men’s shelter building from Ruth Meiers, has offered to make the building available to be used as a shelter this winter. A closing date has not yet been finalized, but is expected by the middle of next month.

Donations for a winter emergency shelter can be directed to the United Way at msaunitedway.org or mailed to MSA United Way, P.O. Box 2111, Bismarck, ND 58502.

Bismarck Tribune reporter Amy Dalrymple contributed to this article.

(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or Blair.Emerson@bismarcktribune.com)

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