$4M to help Moorhead shelter expand space for homeless families

Micah's Mission, 1901 1st Ave. N., is Churches United's largest shelter and houses men, women and families.

Sandie Haltom and her children, Ellie and Isaac, eat a noon meal on April 20, 2020, at the Churches United homeless shelter in Moorhead.
David Samson / The Forum

MOORHEAD — Since before the coronavirus pandemic, Micah’s Mission has struggled to house a growing population of people without homes, including families with young children.

So when news of a $4.02 million grant from Minnesota’s Office of Economic Opportunity came through, Pastor Sue Koesterman, executive director of Churches United, breathed a sigh of relief. The nonprofit organization helps feed and house the homeless.

The grant money will go toward renovating Micah’s Mission, which will include updating the HVAC system, adding a boiler, repairing the roof, renovating office spaces and adding eight family rooms.

Micah's Mission, 1901 1st Ave. N., is Churches United's largest shelter and houses men, women and families.

A sleeping area at the Churches United homeless shelter in Moorhead.
Forum file photo

“We’re seeing tons of pressure for shelter, especially from families, which is part of the reason the renovation here is so exciting for us,” Koesterman said.


The grant money could not have come at a better time, she said, and the numbers speak for themselves.

  • In 2019, 800 individuals found shelter in the Fargo-Moorhead area. 
  • In 2020, 769 people needed shelter. 
  • In 2021, the numbers nearly doubled to 1,259. 
  • So far this year, 659 people have found refuge at Micah’s Mission and other homeless shelters.  

Micah’s Mission currently has 16 families in the building and in the past housed as many as 21 families, with only eight family rooms that offer privacy available, Koesterman said. The new normal includes 40 children on any given day, she added.
Families often have to share space, sometimes sleeping in high-traffic areas, she said.

Pastor Sue Koesterman talking about running a homeless shelter during a worldwide pandemic while at Micah's Mission on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021.jpg
Pastor Sue Koesterman, director of the Churches United homeless shelter in Moorhead, is seen here on Nov. 16, 2021.
C.S. Hagen / The Forum

“This building tends to be noisy, crowded and chaotic, and that includes office space, because you have families sleeping right outside your office door. Part of what we will see from this is an improved working environment,” Koesterman said.

“I think we will see some of our families begin to be able to connect with resources in a more leveraged way because they have some space to think. It will be a big quality of life improvement,” she said.

The building will become more energy efficient, and additional outlets will be added throughout.

“I think electricity is here to stay, so all of us are looking forward to being able to plug in our computer or lamp without blowing a circuit,” Koesterman said. “This building bears a lot of load, so to be able to update the systems will make all the difference in the world.”

Work is slated to begin in the fall and, depending on issues such as supply chain reliability, will finish during the summer of 2023, Koesterman said.


Because much of the renovation work will occur in the building’s basement, she also hopes there will be minimal disturbance for those who live in the building.

“But there will be a certain amount of shelter Tetris going on at times. Any number of us will be working from home or from somebody else’s office while regular space is disrupted,” Koesterman said.

C.S. Hagen is an award-winning journalist currently covering the education and activist beats mainly in North Dakota and Minnesota.
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