The United Way has provided housing for 46 people since Bismarck’s only men’s emergency shelter closed late last month.
The men, women and families served were provided with 150 nights of shelter, said Jena Gullo, executive director for the Missouri Slope Areawide United Way.
During a Bismarck City Commission meeting Tuesday, Gullo provided an update on how the United Way has assisted people with housing since the Ruth Meiers Hospitality House closed its men’s emergency shelter the morning of Oct. 27.
Efforts are still underway to open a temporary shelter for winter in Bismarck-Mandan, but community leaders have struggled to identify a location and an agency to operate it. A proposal to partner with a local church to provide a short-term shelter did not get approval from church administration, Gullo said.
Bismarck Mayor Mike Seminary said he would support having the city partner financially on an emergency shelter, but it would need to have a solid management plan.
Seminary said a short-term shelter could help the city plan for a long-range solution.
“It is not going to go away after spring comes,” Seminary said. “We will have to have a plan, a facility, funding mechanism and someone to operate it.”
Gullo estimates it would cost $90,000 to run a shelter through April, depending on location and the cost of rent.
While plans for a winter shelter continue to develop, people in need of housing can report at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday to Ministry on the Margins, 201 N. 24th St., Bismarck, and at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday and 11:30 a.m. Saturday to The Banquet at Trinity Lutheran Church, 502 N. Fourth St., Bismarck.
The United Way will screen people to see if they are eligible for emergency services.
“We’re only assisting people in crisis,” Gullo said.
So far, those provided with emergency housing include a pregnant single mother and a grandmother and her grandchildren, in addition to men with criminal backgrounds not eligible for other housing options.
Shelters in Minot and Grand Forks have offered to help, and so far the United Way helped one man travel to Minot to stay at the Men’s Winter Refuge, a shelter that can house up to 15 men. The United Way also helped relocate one person to Denver and another to Oregon, where they have family.
“We recognize that is not a best practice, but when we’re dealing with life and death situations, it’s a good option,” Gullo said. “It’s the only option until we can get emergency services here in Bismarck-Mandan.”
Heartview Foundation is finalizing the purchase of the Ruth Meiers building at 305 N. 23rd St. and has offered to make the facility available for a shelter this winter if another organization would operate it and provide funding.
Kurt Snyder, Heartview's executive director, said a purchase agreement states that the organization will take possession of the building five days after the building is vacated. That could be as soon as early next week, but the sale's closing date is still uncertain.
Though the shelter is closed, about 10 men have continued to live in affordable apartment units that are in the same building. They have been told to vacate by Friday afternoon. At least one resident sought legal assistance to challenge the notice to vacate provided by Ruth Meiers.
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.
Donations of socks, gloves, winter coats and hygiene supplies can be dropped off at Ministry on the Margins or Trinity Lutheran Church.