Solutions through grace

The shorter days of fall bring to mind only one thing: The winter season, with cold temperatures and snow. It will soon be here and homeless issues will continue.

The pastors of some Minot churches have hopes of providing shelter to some men who will not have a place to sleep when the nights become colder. Initially the goal was to start sheltering homeless men on Nov. 1, but the date has now been changed to Jan. 1, 2014. Shelter will be available until April 1 when the weather should become more pleasant.

Hopes are to have the program fully functional and ready to start again on Nov. 1, 2014.

“We are making significant progress in organizing a rotating homeless shelter for men in our faith communities,” said the Rev. Jessica Zolondek, pastor of Congregational United Church of Christ, in Minot. The first meeting to address the issue was Aug. 6.

“There have to be enough churches expressing interest in taking a week at a time to host the men,” said the Rev. Bruce Krebs, pastor of Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church, in Minot. The committee is working toward finalizing commitments from additional churches.

“It really is a transitional thing; hopefully in the future there will be something permanent for the homeless. We don’t have a homeless shelter other than the Domestic Violence Crisis Center right now,” Krebs added.

Housing for men right now is the biggest need, Krebs said. He added he doesn’t expect the number of men needing shelter to be huge and hopefully it won’t be the same men all the time. The hope is that they will eventually find work and housing in Minot. The need for women is much less and hopes are that the Minot Area Homeless Coalition will be able to handle that need.

The homeless will be picked up at a central location at 9 p.m. Prior to them being picked up they will be screened by the Minot Area Homeless Coalition (background checks, etc.) to ensure the men are not convicts and that they have no weapons. Any man who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol will not be accepted. A bus will arrive at the church at 7 a.m. to return the men to the central location.

“The aim is to keep the churches and those who come to the sites safe,” Krebs said.

Inflatable mattresses that can easily be cleaned will be transported from church to church each week. A means of laundering the bedding is still being researched. Zolondek stressed a major need for a trailer to use for transporting the mattresses from church to church.

“That’s the one big ticket item that we need. We are hoping someone will donate the trailer or that there will be contributions toward one,” she said. The committee is also hoping someone will lend or contribute a van to transport the men from the centralized location to the host church and back to the central site.

Two or three people from each church would be asked to volunteer to monitor the men each night. If one of the men were to cause a problem law enforcement would be called in and that person would have to leave, Krebs said.

Food, coffee, TV and showers are not included in the overnight stay; only the shelter of the church and a warm, safe place to sleep.

“The goal is to keep anyone who has come to our area to find work from freezing to death,” Krebs said.

“We are not planning to open a full-tilt homeless shelter; just a warm place to sleep,” Zolondek added. “We need people to take the leap of faith with us.”

Pastor Alex Hoops, associate pastor of Bread of Life Lutheran Church in Minot and Trinity Lutheran Church in Douglas, added “What clearer command do we have than to love God and to love our neighbor??God does not make categories to decide who our neighbor is, and there is certainly no limit on the kindness that we are to show them. Offering our neighbors a safe and warm place to sleep is not a new or radical form of ministry; this is simple biblical hospitality.”