Churches United for the Homeless was incorporated by local churches who saw an unmet need in our community in the fall of 1987. The facilities available at that time for overnight shelter were overflowing regularly, so a core group of churches of various denominations opened Churches United for the Homeless on October 151 1987. That night, 18 people slept In the old Bethesda church building near downtown Moorhead, MN. In our 25-year history, we have grown to 57 member churches and continue to provide “shelter and support in a spiritual setting” today. In 2004, due to safety concerns with the building, as well as space constraints, Churches United moved to a new location, 1901 1st Avenue North. In the past six years, this space has served us well, increasing the number of beds we can provide, sufficient room for our food pantry and free thrift store, and for many organizations to meet with residents and provide services from within our building.
The mission of Churches United is to provide “shelter and support in a spiritual setting.” This mission emphasizes our three main tenets: (1) shelter- to furnish a temporary emergency shelter for homeless people (2) support -to refer residents to appropriate services such as job service, social services, mental health services and programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (3) spiritual -to offer spiritual ministry and emotional affirmation to homeless people.
We are able to provide services not only to our residents who are staying at Churches United, but to the community as a whole. We offer three meals a day during the week, two hot meals each day on the weekends and after-school snacks.
Our many community partnerships provide a variety of valuable, on-site services for our residents. Through a partnership with Sanford Health, we have a Shelter Faith Community Nurse who is here 25 hours a week. She is able to offer our residents assistance with medications, provide health Information, referrals, advice, as well as education for our staff. In June, 2010 Lakes and Prairies Community Action and Churches United partnered more closely in order to provide Transitional Housing services with an employee stationed at the Churches United location. Working with the Veteran’s Administration, Churches United now has 5 beds specifically for veterans, with support and services for these veterans provided by the VA. We work closely with Lakeland Mental Health, Clay County Social Services and other organizations such as CCRI (Creative Care Reaching Independence) and Northwest Legal Services to help our residents reach their goals.
These partnerships are of utmost importance in working with a web of services that our residents are in need of on a regular basis. There are four other shelters in the Fargo-Moorhead area that provide similar services; However, Churches United is unique in that it is the only shelter within a 250 mile radius that can accommodate single men, single women, AND one- and two-parent families. Other shelters in the metro area have space for single men, single women or women and children. Our facility offers space for full families to stay together. We are also supported by a core group of churches who provide volunteers, in-kind donations, financial contributions, as well as most of the preparation and serving of food for our evening and weekend meals.
We have 13 board members, who meet monthly. We are also directed by our General Membership Board, meeting bimonthly. This General Membership Board is comprised of two representatives from each of our member churches and provides input to the Board of Directors, decides on policy changes and other activities regarding the organization. The day·to·day work of the organization is done by a staff of 18, including nine full-time employees and nine part time employees. We also have three people on a “pilot program,” where residents or former residents work 20 hours a week for a three month time period. We have over 3,000 volunteers from the community working over 10,000 hours throughout the year.
We are located at 1901 1st Avenue North in Moorhead, MN, right next to a city bus stop, making transportation to and from our facility easily accessible for the community. Our facility was formerly a furniture store, so we have large space in the basement for our food pantry, free thrift store, and storage for basic shelter supplies and transitional housing needs such as furniture. The main floor includes a community center that is open to the public 8:ooam-7:oopm, seven days a week. There is lounge space for people to sit, public phones for resident and community use as well as computers, and a large dining room for meals or general gathering space. Our chapel provides space for dally morning devotions, periodic bible studies, resident meetings and gathering space for volunteer orientations. Our main floor also houses all of our offices, welcome desk, medication room, hygiene products rooms, laundry room for residents, and public restrooms. All eight of our family rooms and our women’s dorm are located on the main level, most of which surround the family and women’s lounge. The fenced-in children’s playground and outside area is accessible through the family lounge area. The second floor houses all of our men, in two 11-bed dorm rooms and two Group Residential Housing rooms, surrounding the men’s lounge area. We have two rooms on main floor that can be assigned as needed for handicapped accessibility.