Group plans new location for men’s shelter

A plan to provide shelter for homeless men this winter is already taking shape.

Men’s Winter Refuge, a church-supported project initiated this past winter, has a new location and will be offering a similar service beginning in October.

George Withus, president of Men’s Winter Refuge, said the relocation of the Domestic Violence Crisis Center headquarters in May opened up the building that the center was leasing from the City of Minot in southeast Minot. The Minot City Council on July 7 approved a lease with Men’s Winter Refuge for $1 a year for five years.

Men’s Winter Refuge will be paying all costs of operating the building, as well as repairs and landscaping. Withus said the building needs some renovation, which volunteers will be assisting with.

“We hope to house between 12 and 16 men per night if the need arises,” Withus said. “We will be able to provide shelter and a hot meal for that evening, a hot shower and a breakfast/snack in the morning.”

Men’s Winter Refuge will operate as a nonprofit under a governing board representing the 11 participating churches. The organization is in the process of hiring an executive director. The position involves year-round duties in overseeing the shelter and fund raising.

The overnight shelter will operate as it did from the end of February through April last winter. The Minot Area Homeless Coalition screened applicants each evening at an off-site location before they were transported to the house owned by First Lutheran Church that served as the shelter. The men were transported back to the off-site location in the morning.

The shelter had a staff nurse who provided health education and emergency services.

Volunteers donated more than 1,000 hours to overnight staffing of the shelter last season, Withus said. Men’s Winter Refuge will be looking for volunteers again this winter.

The average length of guest stay in the shelter last winter was 10 days. Withus said the typical guest was an oil-field worker who recently arrived and needed that first paycheck to locate and afford a place to stay.

“About 90 percent of them had jobs,” Withus said.

He said the men’s shelter is a way for the community to help newcomers while also preventing situations in which homeless men are congregating in various public areas or putting themselves at risk in North Dakota’s extreme cold.

Men’s Winter Refuge will be seeking operational funds from state and local grant sources. It also welcomes donations from churches and others who want to support the work.

Withus said the organization will be seeking specific donations, such as a washer and dryer and bedding, as it remodels the shelter. The donations, as they are needed, will be posted on Facebook on the page for Minot Area Men’s Winter Refuge.

Individuals or groups interested in volunteering or assisting financially can contact the Congregational United Church of Christ at 839-1064.

Another organization, The Welcome Table, is looking for property to establish a one-stop service center for homeless individuals and families. At some point, the location could include a men’s shelter.

Withus said Men’s Winter Refuge will be around for the immediate future, but the hope is that the current shelter will be just a stepping stone to the eventual, larger project.