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New homeless shelter OK'd

The plan for a new Ours to Serve homeless shelter received final approval from the Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board Wednesday evening.

The new shelter, to be called Village of Hope, will replace the existing Ours to Serve House of Hospitality.

The JPB voted 5-0 in favor of an interim use permit that would allow for the operation of the new homeless shelter on the southwest corner of Mississippi Avenue Northwest and Sixth Street Northwest.

"I can't more strongly state how needed that service is in the community and how well Ours to Serve provides that service," said JPB chairman Tim Mountain.

Rebecca Hoffman, the executive director of Ours to Serve House of Hospitality, has said the current shelter at 417 Irvine Ave. N.W. is not adequately sized to meet the need in Beltrami County.

The shelter now has just six beds available. Ours to Serve turns away between 500 and 1,000 people a year, according to Hoffman.

The new shelter will house up to 28 individuals and also have four apartments for staff to be on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The new shelter is being financed through a $1.1 million grant from the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency and a $100,000 grant through the George W. Neilson Foundation.

The JPB approved the permit based on the positive recommendation from the Joint Planning Commission.

"We feel this is a use that is needed by this community," said Andrew Mack, the assistant planner for the joint planning office, which also recommended approval.

The building is planned to be as "green" as possible and will meet LEED standards so it can be certified as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental design.

Hoffman said no plans yet have been set for the current shelter.

Mountain asked if there was any possibility of the current site being turned into a shelter for single, homeless males.

Hoffman said Ours to Serve cannot afford to staff two shelters at once. But, if a solution could be found that would facilitate the running of a single adult shelter, she would support it.

"That would be an option we would happily entertain," Hoffman said.