MOORHEAD — Dangerously cold weather has prompted Fargo-Moorhead groups serving the homeless to ask for donations as well as trained volunteers to staff emergency overflow shelters.
"We can't turn away someone in this weather," said Lisa Richmond of Churches United for the Homeless.
Over the weekend, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signed a declaration of emergency allowing the Moorhead Armory, 1005 15th Ave. N., to be used as a overflow homeless shelter from Wednesday, Dec. 27, until Thursday, Jan. 4.
Richmond said Dayton's approval to utilize the armory was "remarkable and unprecedented." Churches United sent out a request Wednesday for trained volunteers to help immediately at the armory.
Churches United and other shelters in Fargo-Moorhead have been trying to find overflow space since the temporary project Sheltering Churches ended last winter after six years in operation. The project was a collaboration of local churches offering space for overnight shelter staffed with trained volunteers.
This is the first winter without the project, and Richmond said Churches United is looking at a north Moorhead church to potentially serve as overflow space when the armory is no longer available after Jan. 4. Until a space is secured, the organization is handling overflow on a week-by-week basis, she said.
"We really need that space from December through March every year, whether weather is this dramatic or not," Richmond said. "As a community, we need to agree that the need is not going to go away. We need to find a way to make it work."
Richmond said Churches United is looking for a space that's about 2,880 square feet to serve as an overflow shelter for up to 40 men and women. For now only men can stay at the armory because no trained women volunteers have signed up to help, she said.
In Fargo, another group seeking help as a result of the cold is Fraser's Stepping Stones Resource Center. The drop-in center for youth is looking to raise $25,000 immediately to fund extended hours due to the harsh weather.
The center is normally open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, with no weekend services.
However, by Tuesday, Jan. 2, the center will offer overnight emergency shelter from 10 p.m. to 7:30 a.m., said Amy Tichy of Fraser. Weekend services will also be provided from 8 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.
To fund the overnight shelter, Fraser is looking to raise enough money to cover the additional costs of staff, food and supplies. But Tichy said the group will find a way to provide overnight services whether the fundraising goal is reached or not.
"There are too many people out there in the cold, and it's way too cold," she said.