About 30 people stayed at Bismarck’s new emergency shelter on Monday night, a facility the United Way opened just in time to help people during the winter storm.
“With it being one of the snowiest nights, we were happy to meet the need,” said Jena Gullo, executive director of the Missouri Slope Areawide United Way.
The United Way is operating the shelter in a portion of the Sunrise Apartments building in downtown Bismarck after searching for months for a location.
Women and children began staying at the building at 114 N. Third St. on Thursday. They are housed in four rooms in a secure wing of the building.
The shelter was scheduled to open to men on Monday night, but the United Way opened early to allow people to get out of the storm.
“The homeless don’t get a snow day,” Gullo said. “We just wanted to make sure they had somewhere warm and safe to be.”
Ten apartments are available for men, located in a separate secure wing of the building. The shelter can house a maximum of 68 people.
The first night went smoothly, even though the building is still going through some renovations, according to Gullo.
“Someone told me today that they slept like a rock,” said Jarreah Thompson, a client advocate and the shelter’s first employee.
At least 42 men, women and children needed shelter at Sunrise as of early Tuesday evening.
Clients can stay for free up to 30 days as long as they’re working on goals of self-sufficiency. They’re also required to follow rules, including no drugs or alcohol and do some chores to help maintain the building.
“You can’t just come and go like it’s a hotel,” Gullo said.
After 30 days, they are required to pay 30 percent of their income.
The United Way will staff the building during the day and in the evenings, providing case management and other services. Security also is provided on site.
“Sunrise is much more than a roof over their heads,” Gullo said.
Eventually, the United Way may have as many as five staff positions at the shelter, but is relying on trained volunteers until more people are hired, Gullo said.
Women and children can check in between 3:30 and 4:30, to allow children a place to go after school. Men can check in from 8 to 9 p.m. Check-out is at 9 a.m.
“Folks are busy. They're out looking for jobs. They’re in treatment. They’re trying to make their lives better,” Gullo said.
The United Way will serve meals to shelter residents on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Residents can walk to Trinity Lutheran Church for The Banquet on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
The United Way began providing emergency shelter in late October after the Ruth Meiers Hospitality House men’s emergency shelter closed. The United Way had been assisting people with vouchers for hotel rooms while searching for a more long-term location.
Having a shelter location will allow the United Way to do more to help link people with employment and housing.
“We’re going to be able to provide more support that people need to get out of their homeless situation,” Gullo said. “If we don’t address the root causes of homelessness, our numbers are just going to increase. Our goal is to get our numbers to continue to decrease so that people are out on their own.”
The United Way has a lease for Sunrise Apartments through July 1 while community leaders continue to develop a long-term emergency housing solution. The number of people the shelter serves will help gauge the need for a permanent homeless shelter.
“It will allow us to get a clearer picture of the true need and start to collect some reliable data for Bismarck-Mandan,” Gullo said.
The United Way is in need of new personal hygiene supplies, cleaning supplies, paper products, office supplies and other items to be donated for the shelter. The agency also needs volunteers to help with intake and checkout and to prepare and serve meals. For more information, contact the United Way at 701-255-3601.