When Kate Brovold left her 16-year career in state corrections and human services, she took her first steps toward a longtime goal.
"I've always had a dream about opening a shelter," she said. "Working with individuals experiencing homelessness has always been my passion."
In mid-September, Brovold announced Austin's Mission, a planned shelter for homeless individuals with behavioral health issues and substance use disorders. As executive director, she named the effort after her late great-uncle, a longtime addiction counselor.
"I felt like he was really my mentor and the driving force of really working with this population," Brovold said.
As a nonprofit with no capital, Brovold said her effort would like to fundraise $1 million to buy, renovate and outfit a building. Much of that sum is one-time costs.
For now, she's working with other entities to meet similar needs and spread awareness. She's part of an intoxication and withdrawal management work group, which is a subcommittee of the Mayors' Gold Star Community Task Force, a Bismarck-Mandan-Lincoln collaboration to identify current issues of need, such as addiction and treatment.
Bismarck Police Chief Dan Donlin said Brovold's effort would help curb a cycle of intoxicated individuals who go to jail because they have no one to care for them.
"To have a facility where we can avoid taking an individual to jail who really has not broken any laws, an individual that highly probably has alcohol or drug addiction issues and is not getting any resources other than eight hours in the jail and then out they go, would hopefully stop that revolving door," Donlin said.
Police see about 300 to 500 intoxicated individuals a year who go to jail for detoxification management, he added.
Treatment and medication are difficult when someone's most basic needs, such as a place to sleep, aren't met, according to Brovold, who said she'd like to see Austin's Mission serve 35 males and females. She has a seven-member board in place with a 501(c)(3) application pending and the North Dakota Coalition for Homeless People as her fiscal agent.
Twila Johnson, who works with the F5 Project in Fargo helping felons re-enter society, joined Brovold's board after the two met at Recovery Reinvented last week.
"I'm a nurse of 23-plus years, I've seen recidivism in ERs and the need for social detox concepts she's talked of, and she asked me and I said sign me up," Johnson said.
Austin's Mission and the F5 Project share a common theme of helping people looking for a place to go, depending on their needs, she added.
Brovold said Ruth Meiers Hospitality House has filled a need locally, but its men's emergency shelter is closing and up for sale. Working with the city of Bismarck and the Missouri Valley Coalition for Homeless People, Brovold said their goal is to find a solution for winter residents.
"We're working very hard to figure out a short-term plan at this point," she said. "The hope is Austin's Mission may be that long-term plan once winter's over and everyone is safe."
Steve Neu, Ruth Meiers' interim executive director, said there have been conversations with potential buyers but no decision as yet. Ruth Meiers remains active in the community with its transitional living services and broader focus on families, he added.
"Our mission hasn't changed; it's just the program has grown," Neu said. "We're still going to be engaged in the community."
The Gladys Ray Shelter in Fargo most closely resembles what Austin's Mission will look like, according to Brovold, who added she's reached out to other nonprofits for mentoring and plans to connect with local businesses who see the clients she plans to serve. She said Austin's Mission could ultimately reduce use of public resources so other areas of need can be served.
"Our efforts really are to help take that piece away so that the law enforcement and hospitals can focus on the high-intense needs and their efforts," she said. "We're really looking for all the community support."