Fargo-Moorhead churches are taking the initiative to help shelter a growing number of homeless people in the community.
Five shelters for homeless people operate in the area. Coalition for Homeless Persons Director Laurie Baker said there are 330 emergency shelter beds available.
"We know that we needed more beds than that last winter. The shelters have not had a break. They have been at capacity for at least 18 months," Baker said. "That's unprecedented."
To help meet the need, 13 church congregations are opening their doors to provide emergency shelter. People who need a bed for the night will be referred by area homeless shelters. At least one church will be open each night to provide overflow shelter.
Pastor Sue Koesterman of Elim Lutheran Church in Fargo said churches provided more than 1,400 nights of shelter.
She said homeless residents get a warm safe place to spend the night. But she said congregation members who staff the church shelters also benefit.
"Volunteers have consistently reported being touched by the experience of connecting with folks that are living in homelessness and that there's a human face to that that they didn't recognize before," Koesterman said. "Stereotypes are destroyed on a nightly basis."
Local officials say people attracted by the booming North Dakota economy often struggle to find affordable housing.
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