Social Issues

Nearly $2 million budget gap forces closure of men’s shelter in Moorhead

A brown brick house
The Dorothy Day House in Moorhead is temporarily closing 15 shelter beds for men because of a budget shortfall.
Dan Gunderson | MPR News

A nearly $2 million budget shortfall is forcing the closure of a 15-bed shelter for men in Moorhead. The Dorothy Day House is one of three shelters operated in the Fargo-Moorhead area by the Churches United organization.

“We have been in a pretty severe revenue crunch for more than a year and a half now,” said CEO Sue Koesterman. “We needed to make some decisions about how we were going to control expenses while we were working for revenue to turn around.”

A combination of factors created the budget gap. The nonprofit experienced a “COVID cliff” caused by the end of pandemic-related funding. A worker shortage forced the organization to spend more on staff overtime, and there has been a decline in donations from businesses, individuals and churches, said Koesterman.

“I think some of that has to do with just sort of the political uncertainty that’s out there — the sense of divisiveness,” she said. “Some of it has to do with the economic uncertainty that’s out there.”

Churches United recently used grant funding to renovate a larger shelter and build an apartment unit. The public might see those projects and think the nonprofit is flush with cash, said Koesterman. But the grant funds can’t be used for daily operations.

Churches United currently has 103 men, 57 women and 30 families on a waiting list for shelter, said Koesterman.

a sign along a street
Micah's Mission provides emergency shelter for individuals and families in Moorhead.
Dan Gunderson | MPR News

The Fargo-Moorhead area saw a significant increase last year in unhoused people seeking emergency shelter and services.

Most of the men staying at the Dorothy Day House found other places to stay, but Koesterman said two men who are registered sex offenders will likely be on the streets because no other shelter will accept them.

Staff at the shelter will move to other facilities said Koesterman, who hopes to reopen the Dorothy Day House this fall if the budget shortfall can be erased.

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