Bismarck homeless shelter fills up as winter weather begins, director says they need more volunteers

Local News

As of January 2020, North Dakota had roughly 540 people experiencing homelessness, as reported to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

With winter approaching and sometimes sub-zero temperatures with it, one local homeless shelter is filling up.

With snow covering streets across North Dakota, the emergency homeless shelter in Bismarck is filling up.

“It’s usually before the snow kicks in, right before a winter storm that we see a big surge at our shelter,” Missouri Slope Areawide United Way Executive Director Jena Gullo.

Gullo oversees the shelter, which houses 50 to 55 people every night.

“Our space is so small, we just don’t have the space for that but we don’t want to turn people away into the cold,” Gullo said.

She says United Way is raising money to expand the shelter to provide more services and space.

They recently launched a $3.6 million campaign to build a future shelter, but in the present they need meals for the more than 700 people they serve every year.

“We really really could use volunteers to help with our meals,” Gullo said.

North Dakota Community Action Program helps those on the brink of homelessness.

Housing facilitator Karen Busse says the cold creates challenges for low-income people.

“Utility bills tend to go up, and that stretches the household budget. Sometimes people fall behind with utilities and rent, it’s more costly in the wintertime,” Busse said.

Busse says the program helps people apply for social services like ND Rent Help, which can help cover costs of housing.

“I started working with this program in August since that time I’ve had 42 individuals I’ve done housing facilitation with,” Busse said.

Busse says stable housing can be the first step to employment and independence and anyone seeking help should reach out to ND community action.

The MSA United Way is taking donations to build their new shelter online, which you can find here.

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