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Brainerd's warming shelter opens as wintry weather arrives

The shelter is open every day from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. and has beds available for 20 adults.

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A warming shelter on South Seventh Street in Brainerd opened its doors for the first time Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

Brainerd officially has a warming shelter, and just in time to provide reprieve from the snow Mother Nature dumped on the lakes area over the weekend.

“We’re excited and happy to be able to provide the service, but also at the same time you’re sad that this support is needed,” said Jana Shogren, executive director of Bridges of Hope, during a phone interview Sunday, Dec. 5.

Brainerd-based nonprofit Bridges of Hope partnered with Crow Wing County, area churches and other local organizations to open the shelter in south Brainerd. After petitioning the city to update its zoning guidelines to allow for the shelter, applying for a permit, training staff and updating the building, organizers opened the shelter’s doors Friday. The first guest didn’t come until Saturday night, but Shogren said he was grateful for the accommodations and left Sunday morning with a newly obtained coat and a bag of food for breakfast and lunch, thanks to Sharing Bread Soup Kitchen and other community donors.

“We just are feeling really grateful to the community,” Shogren said. “We really received overwhelmingly positive support, which has been really nice.”

Shelter Director Ann Hunnicutt said operations went smoothly for the first weekend.

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“I couldn't have asked for anything better,” she said. “... Our guest was very respectful, abided by the rules. It went very well.”

Hunnicutt hopes to spread the word about the shelter more this week, as the occupancy permit did not come until 4 p.m. Friday afternoon.

“What’s hard is a lot of professional entities are gone for the weekend already by that time,” she said, noting she sent emails to medical facilities, law enforcement agencies and other organizations and hopes once Monday roles around, those places will be able to get in contact with those who could benefit from the shelter.

The original goal earlier this year was to get the shelter running in the first part of 2022 or — at the earliest — by mid-December. Shogren and Hunnicutt attribute the earlier than anticipated opening to the community at large.

“We’ve had people working through the holidays and weekends,” Hunnicutt said. “Really since we’ve gotten our permits, we have gotten so much done in a short amount of time. And it just shows how the community has worked so hard.”

Many people are exhausted with the amount of effort the project has taken — including Hunnicut herself — but she said she would have worked twice as hard to get the doors open as soon as possible.

The shelter is open every day from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. and has beds available for 20 adults, and there is not a limit on how many nights a person can stay. Trained staff members will be on site at all times during open hours, and clients will have space for any possessions they bring along. Access to the shelter is at 1926 S. Seventh St. Walk-ins are welcome until 11 p.m. each night.

“We may not be everybody’s first choice, but the fact that there is a choice and there is somewhere to sleep inside, it feels really good,” Shogren said.

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While donations are appreciated, Shogren asks people to wait a week or two so shelter staff can figure out what the highest needs are and request those items accordingly. Follow the Bridges of Hope Facebook page for updates on needs and visit bridgesofhopemn.org/warmingshelter for more information on the shelter.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa .
Related Topics: NONPROFITS
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