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WDAY: The News Leader

Published November 30, 2011, 10:22 PM

Area churches pitching in to help metro's homeless

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - It's a startling realization. There are more homeless living on the streets in the metro than ever before. On any given night, statistics show 75 people don't have anywhere to go. Shelters are seeing their highest numbers.

By: Travis Skonseng, WDAY

It's a startling realization. There are more homeless living on the streets in the metro than ever before. On any given night, statistics show 75 people don't have anywhere to go. Shelters are seeing their highest numbers.

Churches United for the Homeless in Moorhead is overcapacity, housing 90 people overnight for at least three weeks. Capacity is 65. It's turned five spaces including the chapel and lounges into living quarters. People are sleeping on mattresses on floors.

John Roberts – Churches United Shelter Director: “Every chair is full and there's lots of activity and everybody's looking for a place to sit down and be warm and it would be nice to have some relief from the pressure of numbers.”

People can initially stay at that shelter for 30 days. Those in overflow, one day at a time, meaning they could be turned away if there isn't enough room.

Tonight 23 people are in overflow at Churches United. The most all of last year was 18, and it's not even winter. For the first time, the faith community is stepping forward, looking into housing the homeless.

The five primary shelters in the metro can house 275 people. That doesn't include overflow. It’s simply, not enough for the need. Now, six churches are considering coming to the rescue.

Mikle – Homeless: “Ah yeah I'm staying in the overflow thing man. It's okay but it can be better you know it can be better.”

Mikle knows all too well what it's like to be on the streets. He's been homeless before. 15 years ago, Mikle was forced to stay at a shelter.

Mikle: “To have to do it again it's not something that I wanted to do. It's not by choice.”

He and his family arrived Tuesday to the overwhelmed and overly crowded Churches United.

Mikle: “Surprising because you never know what to expect.”

Omaha man moved to Moorhead for a change in climate, life, and job. He's found that job, but also a floor.

Mikle: “We here until we do find housing.”

Reverend Sue Koesterman – Elim Lutheran Church: “You don't have to walk very far on a winter afternoon in Fargo-Moorhead to realize that sleeping outside is not a good idea.”

Mikle may soon find himself moving to Elim Lutheran Church, one of six that might let homeless spend the night.

Rev. Sue Koesterman: “Churches are in the business of helping people so it makes sense that we would work together to do this.”

Each would rotate as a shelter through winter. Trained volunteers would watch over the overflows. Shelter workers would screen all guests to make sure they are safe and sober, before dropping them off at a church.

Rev. Sue Koesterman: “It is really shocking that in a community that is so affluent that we have this much need and this dire need.”

On a crunched crisis like this, people in need like Mikle are squeezing in a little prayer, making the best of a bad situation.

Mikle: “Yep that's all I can do. Give it to God and let him work with me and we'll be fine.”

Here's the list of four of the other churches considering this: Salem Evangelical Free, St. Mark's, First United Methodist and Trinity Lutheran in Moorhead. Those church councils still need to vote on the proposal. That should happen within three weeks. Housing would be from January to March.

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