Mayor Ward Koeser plans to ask the Williston City Commission on Tuesday to consider using the New Armory for a temporary winter emergency homeless shelter.
An area ministerial association and partnered churches brought forth the idea of “Project Heat” to the city commission Dec. 26. The Williston Evangelical Ministerial Alliance joined The Salvation Army, Saving Grave and New Hope in an effort to house the increasing amount of homeless in the area.
The shelter would be “a viable resource for those looking for temporary lodging solutions during the cold winter months in Williston,” said Capt. Joshua Stansbury of The Salvation Army in his letter to the commission.
“In years past, most of homeless left the city during the winter,” Koeser said. “But in the last couple of years, there are more people who are trying to find work and are not prepared with no place to live and find themselves on the street in life threatening temperatures.”
In December, the mayor visited with Gov. Jack Dalrymple, discussing the option of using part of the armory as a shelter. He has since talked with numerous state agencies and members of the Williston National Guard about the option.
Over Christmas, he conducted a conference call with all representatives. They agreed the city could potentially use the armory for shelter if the church group agreed and armed security was available.
The mayor plans to ask the commission to donate armory space for the shelter, as it already lifts the renting charge for use of the National Guard office, Koeser said. The cost of hiring police or private security, at an estimated $45 per hour, could be paid for by Project Heat.
Negotiations remain in their preliminary phases, but the mayor said churches would be responsible for checking the people in and out of the facility, along with providing comfort at the shelter.
The armory presents a good location for a shelter, Koeser said, especially since it has limited effects on neighbors. That said, he plans to ask the commission to allow the churches to house the homeless when the National Guard hosts its events.
The commission passed the first reading of the proposed ordinance to allow the church group to create a shelter. The second reading is scheduled for review at the next commission meeting at 6 p.m. Jan. 14. At that time, the mayor will present his case for housing the shelter at the armory.