As nonprofit groups and community leaders work toward finding an emergency shelter to house homeless this winter, the North Dakota Adult and Teen Challenge building has been identified as a possible shelter location.
The proposal has been met with criticism and controversy from some residents, including from a child care provider near the proposed shelter.
North Dakota Adult and Teen Challenge has requested a special use permit from Mandan to open the shelter, a proposal which will be discussed at a public hearing on Monday.
Phil Wolverton, executive director of North Dakota Adult and Teen Challenge, said the shelter seemed like a good fit as helping those in need — including assisting people with drug and alcohol addictions, disorders which often affect homeless people — is what his organization does.
"(North Dakota Adult and Teen Challenge is trying) to help out in a crisis situation where people are sleeping on the streets — it's cold out — and trying to help solve an issue right here, right now," Wolverton said.
Wolverton said a group of homeless advocates approached him about possible use of the space, which previously was the location of the Welcome House, a homeless shelter that has since transferred to a new location in Bismarck. The space has been vacant for about a year.
Community leaders involved in finding a new emergency shelter, after Ruth Meiers Hospitality House's men's emergency shelter closed on Oct. 27, are continuing to look at a variety of other locations, as well.
Wolverton said North Dakota Adult and Teen Challenge would rent the space — which could house a maximum of 20 beds — and his organization would not be in charge of staffing it.
The shelter would not be open to sex offenders, because North Dakota Adult and Teen Challenge operates as a school, according to Wolverton. The location is also nearby other school and child care settings, including Roosevelt Elementary School.
North Dakota Adult and Teen Challenge opened in 2004 in Williston as a drug and alcohol recovery center in men, according to the organization's website. In response to a growing need for recovery services, it relocated to Mandan in 2005 and, a year later, began accepting women into the program. It currently hosts about 50 residents.
Wolverton contends that North Dakota Adult and Teen Challenges already houses people coming out of prison and has been since its inception.
"We've been good neighbors in the community, and, as far as I know, there's never been an issue with Teen Challenge and the people that we serve," said Wolvertin, adding that he wasn't aware of any issues when the Welcome House was operating at the site.
Questions remain over why a special use permit is required to open the space as a shelter. A Mandan Planning and Zoning Commission meeting will be held 5:15 p.m. Monday at the Ed Bosh Froehlich Meeting Room at Mandan City Hall.
One child care provider nearby said she has concerns about a shelter opening. Kennedy Mitchell, owner of A Child's Garden in Mandan, said she's been open since May and rents the space from North Dakota Adult and Teen Challenge.
Mitchell said she was unaware of any plans to look at opening a shelter, and she didn't learn about it until a parent at her day care texted her the article in The Bismarck Tribune on Monday.
"My main concern is everyone's safety around here," said Mitchell, who has about 40 children currently and 11 employees. "I get it; I know that people need shelter, but this just isn't the right place."
Mitchell said she hasn't yet had any problems with North Dakota Adult and Teen Challenge and their residents. If a shelter would open, she said she would no longer stay open and she would relocate.
"I've already had parents saying that they're going to pull their kids if this passes," she said.
Wolverton said he's received many phone calls since news broke about the possible shelter location. He said he's open to hearing concerns from the community.
"I don't want to bring something in here that's going to harm the community, but taking care of people and getting them off the street is obviously highly important," he said.