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COMMUNITY: Donor gives $100,000 to help the homeless

Pictured are members from the Nameless Coalition for the Homeless. From left to right are Bob Enger, Kristi Miller, Reed Olson, Carolyn Jacobs, Vanessa Burkman, Keni Johnson and Jorge Prince. 2 / 2

BEMIDJI -- Efforts to find a homeless shelter in downtown Bemidji received a boost on Monday.

A $100,000 boost.

The Stopgap Committee of the Nameless Coalition for the Homeless said Monday an anonymous person donated $100,000 to the group’s fund set up at the Northwest Minnesota Foundation.

“This is just a huge, huge infusion of cash into a very strapped organization that is trying to build, lease or buy a shelter for chronic inebriates in downtown Bemidji,” said Reed Olson, chairman of the Stopgap Committee and a Bemidji City Council member. “This is a huge game-changer for us.”

The committee is working to locate a shelter in downtown Bemidji, and while it has its eye on several possible properties, they have not yet entered into any formal discussions.

But with Monday’s news, Olson and the rest of the committee hope the process speeds up. Before the $100,000 infusion, the coalition raised about $40,000 in private donations and pledges from various organizations, including churches, the city and county, as well as area American Indian tribes.

The group now has the working capital to locate and start a facility, Olson said. An earlier estimate showed it will cost about $45,000 to operate a temporary facility for about six months. The estimate includes rent and utilities, as well as staffing and insurance, and food and household supplies.

The committee hopes that’s just what the shelter is: temporary, Olson said.

City Center Housing of Duluth is working on plans to locate a shelter and apartment complex for homeless people in Bemidji. Preliminary plans call for a 60-unit facility, of which 30 units would be designated for chronic inebriates. A coalition of civic leaders took a tour of CCH’s facility last week in Duluth.

However, there is no hard timetable for when a CCH facility could be open in Bemidji. And each year, most notably in the winter, about two homeless people die because of alcohol or the weather, Olson said.

That’s where the Stopgap Committee’s shelter comes in. Olson said he looks forward to the day when the committee, or even the Nameless Coalition, is not needed and they could cease to exist or move onto another issue.

“I am excited for that decision,” he said. “But right now, our main focus is just getting the doors open.”

Working through a reputable organization such as the Northwest Minnesota Foundation shouldn’t be overlooked, Olson added. It gives people confidence to donate when they know the organization is aligned with the NWF.

“It’s just a great, great day for the Nameless Coalition and it just shows how supportive the community has been, overall, in supporting our efforts,” Olson said.

So far, the identity of the $100,000 donor is unknown. Olson said they will remain that way if they choose. They don’t intend to push to find out who it is.

“We just want to say ‘Thank you,’” he said.

Matt Cory

Matt Cory is the Editor of the Pioneer. Cory grew up in East Grand Forks and is a graduate of the University of North Dakota. He worked as a reporter, copy editor and editor at the Grand Forks Herald from 1993 to 2013, when he joined the Pioneer as Editor.

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