Subcommittee members of the Mayors’ Gold Star Community Task Force aim to have a plan by early June for a homeless shelter while a social detoxification solution could be on the horizon.
Bismarck City Commissioner Nancy Guy gave an update from the emergency shelter steering committee at the Task Force’s quarterly meeting on Tuesday. She said the subcommittee’s seven members are looking at factors such as location, best practices and what agency could operate a shelter for men, women and families after the emergency men’s shelter of Ruth Meiers Hospitality House closed in October.
“There’s a lot more to it than just a shelter,” Guy said. “There is connecting the clients to all of the solutions to get out of that homeless position and be successful members of our community and that deal with the issues that have gotten them where they are.”
Part of that could include co-locating with a social detox center. Pamela Sagness, director of the state human services' behavioral health division, said that a homeless shelter and social detox could present a “great opportunity to share resources and have resources go further.”
Bismarck Mayor Mike Seminary said that a public/private partnership for social detox could be forthcoming but “I really can’t talk about it publicly."
“What I’m being informed of is the discussions are very encouraging, and we should have a solution to that ... in the not-too-distant future,” he said.
He and Guy highlighted the potential relationship of a homeless shelter and social detox.
“I would say that the connection between social detox and the constant work of the providers, services that are connected to that particular community problem, are very unique,” Seminary said. “We have multiple organizations that are trying desperately to address that effectively, and it would appear that we have what I would say is very passionate people that are trying to desperately address a need that requires more than money.”
Guy pointed to a co-location model, such as the Gladys Ray Shelter and Withdrawal Management Unit in Fargo.
“I think that if you have those things co-located you can share some resources, you can make sure there’s a warm hand-off from one agency to the next,” she said, for people transitioning between services.
Guy also discussed efforts “to marshal the faith community in town” to see what local churches are doing as far as homeless services.
"What we're trying to do is get some sort of sense of what some of the churches are doing in town and what their interest is in banding together and what that might look like and what that organization might want to do," she said. “We can certainly ask them to fulfill a need, but it’s really up to them and what they want to do.”
A stakeholders’ meeting in April will gather community leaders to discuss shelter needs.
Missouri Slope Areawide United Way has been instrumental in providing emergency shelter since the Ruth Meiers closure last fall. Last week, the United Way opened a temporary emergency shelter in part of the Sunrise Apartments in downtown Bismarck, with a capacity of 68 people.
“United Way is committed to sheltering there until July 1 or sheltering, period, until July 1,” Guy said. “It is our goal to have another agency in line to take over for them when that time frame is done.”