In November 2017, the Ruth Meiers Hospitality House closed its men’s emergency homeless shelter. That action caused a ripple effect throughout the Bismarck-Mandan area.
The closure immediately presented an urgent challenge to find housing for the community’s homeless population. Missouri Slope United Way stepped in, leasing 14 rooms in downtown Bismarck to provide shelter. But a long-term solution remained elusive. Additionally, the shelter’s closing raised questions about the future of the Ruth Meiers facility located at 1100 East Boulevard Avenue.
Now, within the last three weeks, CommunityWorks North Dakota (the housing arm of Lewis & Clark Development Group) announced partnerships with United Way and Lutheran Social Services Housing (LSSH) that provides long-term solutions to addressing homelessness in the community and a future for the Ruth Meiers property.
CommunityWorks North Dakota has partnered with United Way to purchase the former Open Door Community Center, located at 1140 South 12th Street, to serve not only as the permanent home for the homeless shelter but to also provide additional programs and services. The 3,200-square-foot ‘Center for Opportunity’ will be a one-stop shop for men, women, and children providing a pathway out of poverty.
The property sits on 1.7 acres, offering ample room for parking and possible future expansions. CommunityWorks North Dakota is the project’s developer. Under terms of the partnership, United Way will coordinate services and eventually become the sole owner of the facility.
“This project has been in the making for some time,” said LCD Group Executive Director Brent Ekstrom. “We are pleased to partner with United Way to provide a comprehensive solution to our community’s homelessness challenge.”
Acquiring Ruth Meiers
On the heels of the ‘Center for Opportunity’ announcement came confirmation that CommunityWorks North Dakota had entered into a partnership with LSSH to assume ownership of the Ruth Meiers property for expanded and continued use as affordable housing.
Last month, Ruth Meiers made the decision to stop offering transitional housing, turning over property ownership to Choice Bank. This made way for LSSH and CommunityWorks North Dakota to take on permanent responsibility for the property.
The facility has been renamed Porter Place Apartments and will provide 85 studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments for anyone living in the Bismarck-Mandan area that meets specific income qualifications. And there are many.
The ‘Bismarck Mandan Housing Demand Analysis – 2030’ report documents the need for affordable housing, as created by population growth, and highlighted the importance of investing in a range of housing solutions to meet the need – solutions like Porter Place Apartments.
“We are glad to be part of the cooperative effort that has taken place to preserve this property for affordable housing and to offer a solution to what is very much an underestimated challenge,” said Ekstrom.
Both LSSH and CommunityWorks North Dakota plan to enhance the building’s aesthetic presence. Proposed designs call for additional green space and incorporating public art, which will make the property a gateway into the surrounding neighborhood.
Keeping with CommunityWorks North Dakota’s Mission
These projects are in keeping with CommunityWorks North Dakota’s core mission to provide affordable housing and development opportunities across North Dakota. As the state’s only NeighborWorks America® chartered organization, CommunityWorks North Dakota is dedicated to revitalizing and improving the quality of life for communities.
Ekstrom adds,”Both of these projects are prime examples of why CommunityWorks North Dakota exists.”