The sale of the Bismarck homeless shelter doesn’t resolve the problem facing the Bismarck-Mandan community, but it’s a step in the right direction.
The Ruth Meiers Hospitality House decided to close and sell its men’s shelter after encountering financial difficulties. It’s the only men’s shelter in Bismarck-Mandan and houses 30 to 70 men a night. The shelter is at 305 N. 23rd St. With winter approaching, there’s concern about the safety of the homeless men.
The Heartview Foundation has agreed to purchase the shelter and allow it to be used in the winter months. Heartview plans to renovate the building to use for chemical dependency treatment and recovery support services. While Heartview is willing to delay renovation and allow the shelter to be used this winter, it doesn’t have the staff or expertise to operate a shelter.
That means funding and staff will have to come from other sources. Ruth Meiers knows the difficulty in running a homeless shelter so it won’t be easy to fill the void.
Steve Neu, Ruth Meiers interim executive director, estimated at a recent meeting that it costs $258,000 a year if operating a shelter limited to overnight staffing. If also providing daytime support services, he put the estimate at $360,000 a year.
The Missouri Valley Coalition for Homeless People has been exploring its options. The coalition has been looking for a short-term housing solution and discussing long-term community housing needs. If the coalition can find funds and staff for the winter months, the homeless shelter is available for use. There’s been talk of fundraising efforts in the community and that’s good. However, it’s likely funds from grants or some other programs will be needed. Some experienced staff will be necessary for the shelter, it doesn’t seem like a job just for volunteers.
People seem determined to find a solution, but we are in the time of year when the weather could take a nasty turn any day. It could be like last year, when officials warned Dakota Access Pipeline protesters to leave the camps before the winter storms hit. It stayed mild for a long time, but when the storms arrived it was brutal.
The Tribune Editorial Board believes a short-term solution can be found. Then it becomes important for the community to develop a long-term plan. People are homeless for a variety of reasons and it’s not easy to overcome the obstacles they face. The community can’t abandon them and shows no inclination to do so.
Heartview has stepped up and offered to allow the emergency shelter to be open at least through the end of March. That’s a big commitment on their part, now let's see what the rest of the community can do. We think Bismarck-Mandan will find a solution.