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Homeless shelter volunteers still needed

FARGO - They are streaming here in search of a job and a chance at a better life. Some try sleeping in their cars or, as in one recent case, an abandoned trailer. But the bitter winter cold, especially the recent subzero temperatures, are hazardo...

FARGO - They are streaming here in search of a job and a chance at a better life.

Some try sleeping in their cars or, as in one recent case, an abandoned trailer.

But the bitter winter cold, especially the recent subzero temperatures, are hazardous to face without a heated roof overhead.

Demand at Fargo-Moorhead homeless shelters, with a combined 275 beds, has exceeded capacity this winter.

Local churches have stepped in to offer space to serve as makeshift shelters but need more volunteers to serve as overnight hosts or van drivers to handle the influx.

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The overflow church shelters are averaging 27 to 28 people per night, said John Roberts, shelter operations director for Churches United for the Homeless.

That's more than double last year's average of 12 to 13, he said.

Wednesday night, the overflow church shelter took in 34 guests, a record Roberts expected Thursday night would likely repeat or nearly match.

By comparison, he said, last year's peak overflow night was 18.

"It's overflow for the community," Roberts said. "We've really become the intake site."

All people are screened at the Churches United Homeless Shelter in Moorhead before being referred to a church overflow shelter.

Eight Fargo-Moorhead churches have stepped forward to accommodate homeless people when shelters are filled to capacity.

Homeless advocates and church leaders repeated their call for volunteers to help as overnight hosts and drivers.

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More volunteers are needed to help local churches handle overflow from homeless shelters.

Smaller churches, in particular, can use volunteers to help out, said the Rev. Sue Koesterman of Elim Lutheran Church in Fargo, one of the eight temporary church shelters.

"A number of the churches that are a part of this are smaller," she said. "This really needs to be a community effort."

The program, which began Jan. 1, is scheduled to run through March 31.

Anyone who can volunteer for a night shift this week through Sunday should call Barb at (701) 237-6910.

Those interested in volunteering for future dates should call First Link at 211.

Three more volunteer training sessions have been scheduled, all at First United Methodist Church in Fargo:

  • 1 to 3:30 p.m. Jan. 28.
  • 6 to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 9.
  • 1 to 3:30 p.m. Feb. 25.

More information is available on Facebook at FM Sheltering Churches.
Readers can reach Forum reporter

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Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522

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