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Shelter fundraiser is well attended: Helping the homeless

Pastor Tim Rice speaks to attendees about the importance of having a homeless shelter in the Detroit Lakes community. (Brian Basham/Tribune)

A new homeless shelter for men will likely open in Detroit Lakes by the end of next summer and so far, fundraising has been a success.

"Compassion House" will be a branch of The Refuge that will house 20 to 25 beds for homeless men in the area.

On Thursday, nearly 200 people attended the first fundraiser at the Holiday Inn, where about $7,200 was raised in addition to more private donations.

"What happened was beyond expectations," said Allan Schoenberger, vice president, treasurer and administrator of The Refuge.

Speakers at the fundraiser all agreed that many people in the area may not realize the need for a place to house homeless men.

"This is not about homeless people, this is about people that find themselves homeless," said Pastor Tim Rice. "Any one of us can find themselves homeless."

The Refuge bought the Waste Management Building for $175,000 and a zoning request has been submitted to the Becker County Planning and Zoning Commission, Schoenberger said.

The facility will have space for a commons area and a sleeping area in a dormitory style. It will also serve three meals a day and possibly have employment opportunities for its residents.

Compassion House will not only provide the physical need for a place to stay during below-zero temperatures, but will also offer emotional, mental and medical support.

Organizers will "hook up with people in the community who can really help," Rice said.

Dan Danielson, chief executive officer of the New Life Center in Fargo, where many of the homeless in the Detroit Lakes area seek shelter, said homelessness doesn't discriminate and it can happen to any age group, ethnicity or social network.

"I'm so excited for what's going on in this community," he said, adding, when the homeless are categorized, "it stigmatizes them and it takes away the reality that they are human beings."

Compassion House will be funded by grants and private donations. The closing on the Waste Management Building is set for June 1, 2011 and remodeling and construction will follow with hopes to open its doors by the end of the summer.

"We really truly can be a safe haven. We really truly can be a place where people can get help," Rice said.