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Bismarck homeless struggle with frigid winter conditions

January 3, 2018

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Bismarck’s homeless population is struggling after the area’s lone emergency men’s shelter closed and temperatures plummeted into the negative double digits.

The Ministry on the Margins offers meals, a food pantry and other services in the area. The ministry’s Sister Kathleen Atkinson told the Bismarck Tribune that the severe weather has been particularly difficult for homeless residents and people who can’t afford cold-weather repairs.

She said three people without access to heat visited the ministry Tuesday.

Chuck Benjamin was one of those people who warmed up at the ministry. Benjamin usually keeps warm by sleeping in his pickup truck, but that’s no longer an option. He returned to his truck last week to find a dead battery.

“My car didn’t start, I called AAA. His car didn’t start, he’s stuck,” said Atkinson.

Benjamin said he’s spent the past several days visiting building lobbies for warmth. He said he stays for less than 20 minutes to avoid getting reported for trespassing.

“You don’t want to be put in jail for trying not to freeze to death,” said Benjamin.

The Ruth Meiers Hospitality House closed its men’s emergency shelter in October following financial management claims and other issues.

The Missouri Slope Areawide United Way has been helping manage the city’s emergency housing needs. Executive Director Jena Gullo said the agency has seen an increase in people seeking shelter amid the recent frigid weather.

“It really is a matter of life or death,” Gullo said. “We know that a lot of people care about our homeless and want to help. Now’s the time to either volunteer or give.”

Gullo said the agency will provide an update on a plan for a temporary housing shelter at the next Bismarck City Commission meeting.

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com

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