BEMIDJI -- In January 2015, the Nameless Coalition for the Homeless became an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
Thanks to a recent boost in funding, the organization now has a formal executive director, too.
Reed Olson, who long served as the nonprofit's chair, was hired into a more formal half-time role. The new position isn't the only change thanks to the increase in dollars, though, as the organization will now be able to keep its overnight shelter, The Wolfe Center, open for more weeks than before.
"We receive a variety of funding from a number of sources," Olson said. "One of our main sources is from the Office of Economic Opportunity. It's a biennial grant we wrote in the spring and we were awarded twice as much as we had been given previously."
Olson said the grant went from $50,000 per biennium to $100,000. In total, the Nameless Coalition will operate the Wolfe this year with a budget of at least $150,000.
"When you look at the services we provide, you'd be hard pressed to find an organization that could do what we do at the amount we've spent," Olson said. "We served more than 400 people through last season with over 2,000 night stays. Some years we've done it for a lot less. The year before our budget was south of $100,000. We'll get the job done however we can, but it can be a lot more difficult."
The Wolfe has consistently offered shelter for more than 400 guests in the winter months. According to reports given to the Bemidji City Council from the organization, the 2016-2017 winter had 400 individuals stay and the 2017-2018 winter offered shelter to 424 people.
In years past, the shelter was open from October through April. However, this year and for the foreseeable future, the Wolfe will be open in September through May. Olson said this year, the Wolfe will be open for the season at 8 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 16.
"We were saying when we had enough money, we would stay open longer," Olson said. "May and September, like we're seeing now, can be cold and rainy. People can still succumb to hypothermia when it's above freezing. Our guests may already have compromised immune systems. So we've always wanted to stay open longer. Now we have the funds to do so."
Administratively, Olson said his new position will allow the organization to have a more official approach in the way it does business.
"This will allow us to have a formal position to go out and find more dollars and partnerships," Olson said. "Since forming, we've been volunteer based. We do have staff operating the shelter, but when it comes to the administrative work, finding grants and meeting with local government units, we've been volunteering."
Members of the organization have been working together since 2013 and were able to open the Wolfe in 2016. The shelter, formerly the Headwaters Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Church, has 16 beds and is located at 522 America Ave. NW.
Outside of the coalition, Olson is also Beltrami County's District 2 commissioner.