The United Way plans to continue providing emergency shelter for the homeless in Bismarck-Mandan this winter, but the agency needs more donations and volunteers to support the effort.

Jena Gullo, executive director for the Missouri Slope Areawide United Way, said Tuesday the agency has provided shelter for 134 homeless men, women and children since the end of October.

The United Way has been connecting people with emergency housing since Ruth Meiers Hospitality House closed its men’s emergency shelter the morning of Oct. 27.

“We are not a direct service provider, but we will step in to fill this important gap because we do believe this is a community crisis,” Gullo said during a meeting of the Mayors’ Gold Star Community Task Force.

With help from Bismarck city staff, the United Way has explored more than 20 locations for a possible temporary shelter, but has not yet identified the best location, she said.

One option could be the former men’s emergency shelter owned by Ruth Meiers Hospitality House. Steve Neu, interim executive director, said Tuesday he anticipates the sale of the building to Heartview Foundation will close soon.

Officials with Heartview have said they would postpone renovations to a portion of the building so it could be used as an emergency shelter this winter.

In the meantime, the United Way coordinates with people in need every day at 5:30 p.m. at Ministry on the Margins or Trinity Lutheran Church and connects them with emergency housing.

So far, the agency has provided 576 nights of shelter, Gullo said.

The United Way is developing policies and procedures for a winter shelter and plans to hire staff. The agency also is looking for volunteers to help with intake and assist office staff during the day.

“We do need more manpower until we can hire trained staff,” she said.

In addition, the United Way is raising funds and estimates it will cost $215,000 to fill the emergency housing need this winter. To date, $43,000 has been raised.

“We do not want even one person freezing and dying out in the cold,” Gullo said.

Donations for the emergency shelter can be made through MSAUnitedWay.org. One hundred percent of contributions that specify emergency homeless shelter will pay for expenses related to providing emergency housing.

(Reach Amy Dalrymple at 701-250-8267 or Amy.Dalrymple@bismarcktribune.com)

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