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Mike 2018 yr end pics

A man peers into the large windows as he recognizes friends sitting down for a meal while walking into the Sunrise Apartment building in downtown Bismarck on Oct. 24. Three days a week volunteers with the Missouri Slope Areawide United Way serve an evening meal for the public and residents at the homeless shelter. 

In October 2017 when the only men’s homeless shelter closed the Bismarck-Mandan community struggled for months to find a solution. It wasn’t until the spring of 2018 that a shelter was established, largely due to the work of the Missouri Slope Areawide United Way.

The shelter was established at Sunrise Apartments at 114 N. Third St.

Now the United Way is struggling to raise enough money to maintain the shelter. It’s a possibility they might have to close it. During the day those staying at the shelter must leave and fend for themselves. They can go to the mall, library or a fast food restaurant to stay warm. If they can’t afford food the restaurants aren’t a good alternative. A mall or the library also aren’t good choices.

Some homeless complained about being sent out in the subzero weather during the cold spell before Christmas. They noted they have ailments that put them at risk in the extreme cold. United Way employees volunteered their time to keep the shelter open all day on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but that’s not possible all the time.

United Way Executive Director Jena Gullo believes a community the size of Bismarck needs a homeless shelter open 24/7. That would be difficult to do at the moment. Gullo told the Tribune in November that they will need to raise $500,000 a year to support an expanded shelter and they need to raise $150,000 to reach that goal. They will need $100,000 more to become 24/7.

In an earlier editorial, the Tribune Editorial Board said “The community needs a shelter that's open 24/7 and provides services to help the homeless back into society. At the same time, we can't expect United Way to carry the load alone. The groups that worked together to find a way to establish a homeless shelter now need to focus on finding a revenue stream. It could be through grants, fundraisers or major donors.”

The Tribune hasn’t changed its position. It’s important that the community takes care of the less fortunate. We aren’t talking about first class accommodations and food. It’s a warm, safe place with decent meals. We also need to find a way to provide services to help the homeless get back into society.

The Bismarck area has been fortunate that this winter hasn’t been severe. We have had a couple of cold spells, but nothing compared to past years. However, if you are homeless and outside during the day it no doubt feels very cold. The cold can be deadly and it would be shameful if someone died in the freezing weather.

No one said it would be easy to establish a homeless shelter and it hasn’t been. Our priorities need to be, first, raise enough money to keep the shelter operating. Two, see if we can find some temporary places for the homeless during the day. Three, help the United Way in its efforts to expand its homeless services.

What’s been achieved so far reflects a caring community, now we need to find a way to complete the job.

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