BEMIDJI-Funds were raised, a site was selected, construction began in the fall and Bemidji still waits for the Nameless Coalition for the Homeless' shelter to open. The coalition hopes to wrap up renovations by February-three months after the anticipated opening on Nov. 1.
The Nameless Coalition for the Homeless began meeting with intentions to build a shelter before snowfall in 2013. The third winter has set in since the coalition formed, and Bemidji's homeless are bracing to face the coldest months of the season.
"I'd say Feb. 1, but hopefully sooner as this weekend it's going to be really cold," said Kristi Miller, Nameless Coalition for the Homeless treasurer.
The National Weather Service forecasts a high of 2 degrees below zero and a low of minus 17 on Saturday with similar temps on Sunday.
In December, the coalition reported construction delays causing a change in the planned grand opening date. Miller said the remodel, being done by volunteer laborers, is taking longer than expected. Contributing to the delay is a handicap accessible chairlift that needed to be built.
"We are following building codes to a 'T' and with those contingencies being put in place, it's taking longer," Miller explained. "We are obligated to follow code, and do not resent any of them, because when completed, the shelter will be a highly functional and solid building to house the chronic inebriate homeless in Bemidji."
The coalition's shelter, The Wolfe Center, is one of two Bemidji shelters willing to take in homeless adults who may be under the influence of alcohol. Consuming alcohol will not be permitted onsite. Once complete, the renovated church building on America Avenue and Sixth Street Northwest will be able to take in up to 16 adults at the overnight seasonal shelter.
In August, the Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board recommended approval of the coalition's application for an interim use permit and a 500-foot buffer zone variance allowing a homeless shelter to exist on the property in Bemidji's downtown Urban Renaissance district. To comply with the permit and variance 16 criteria, including safety measures, must be met.
During a public hearing following the JPB's decision, Bemidji attorney firm Fuller, Wallner, Cayko, Pederson and Huseby, Ltd., located next door to the shelter site, raised opposition to the permitting process. The firm filed a civil action lawsuit against the JPB and the Nameless Coalition on behalf of Titanic Equipment Leasing which is in a partnership with Fuller, Wallner, Cayko, Pederson and Huseby, Ltd. Beltrami County District Court Judge Paul T. Benshoof took the suit under advisement after a Dec. 14 motion hearing. The coalition is awaiting a determination.
"Obviously hoping for the best and feel fairly confident that we will prevail," Miller said of the suit. "We have fastidiously followed procedure and law and therefore are not stressed over any of the roadblocks that have arisen."
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