A family of five were the first ones to move into the new residence for a local homeless shelter Thursday.
Welcome House, which serves homeless families in Bismarck-Mandan, was on the verge of permanently closing if its board of directors and staff could not find a new location, said the shelter's director, Pamela Scherf.
On Aug. 1, after months of searching, the new Welcome House, located at 1902 E. Thayer Ave., officially opened.
“I’m really excited to get up and running," Scherf said, sitting in her new office space, a huge step up from her previous digs, which was a cramped office at the Salvation Army. "It’s just going to be better all around, compared to our Mandan location."
The new, centrally located property is down the street from a bus stop and employment agency, which is key because the shelter does not provide transportation to residents.
Scherf said high rent caused the shelter to close in Mandan, and the location was just too far from services in town. After shuttering last October, Scherf said they received an outpouring of community support, including $10,000 from the local charity, the Paris Family Foundation.
"We have be very fortunate," said Robert Hieb, president of the Welcome House's board of directors.
The new shelter can hold four families, up to 20 people at a time. The two-level home has four rooms, each equipped with bunk beds, a safe and alarm clock. There's a long dining table in the entrance of the home, and a large, fully-stocked kitchen upstairs.
Hieb said they spent six months looking for the right place. Proper zoning and price were two major factors included in the search.
"I think (the home) is going to work well," Hieb said, even though the new shelter serves fewer families than it had in Mandan. "Our goal would be to serve more families, but this is what we have."
The shelter is a 90-day program, although residents typically stay around 30 days, Scherf said. Residents meet weekly with a case manager who helps them get back on their feet, turning in rental financial assistance applications and setting up payment plans for any debt.
Hieb said in the future they may look for other locations, too, such as an apartment building, to be able to house more families.
To learn more about the Welcome House, visit www.welcome-house.net.
(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or Blair.Emerson@bismarcktribune.com)