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Homeless shelter set to open in DL

This is what the new men's shelter and Thrift store will look like when it's completed.

Since the Refuge Christian Outreach Center first opened in Detroit Lakes five years ago, its ministry has been steadily growing.

Not only does the non-denominational, nonprofit organization hold "Breakfast and Bible" sessions at 7 a.m. daily, Monday through Friday, but it also offers a free hot meal to anyone who is interested every Thursday through Saturday at 5 p.m., as well as a 6 p.m. worship and prayer service every Sunday.

The Refuge's coffee shop, Solid Grounds, is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Monday through Friday, and it recently opened an eBay store that's accessible 24 hours a day.

And now, The Refuge is gearing up to launch its biggest project to date: a 25-bed men's homeless shelter known as Compassion House.

The shelter, which is slated to have between 8-10 beds available by Jan. 1, is located in the former Waste Management building on 8th Street in Detroit Lakes, just a couple of doors down from The Refuge itself.

The upper level of the building will house the main homeless shelter; the eventual plan is to expand the facility to include transitional housing as well, according to Refuge outreach coordinator Randy Kohler.

The bottom half of the building will house a handicapped-accessible shelter area as well as another new enterprise: the Helping Hand Thrift Store, also tentatively slated for a Jan. 1 opening.

The Compassion House facility will be managed by interim director Steve Goranson, who was just hired by The Refuge to fill that position earlier this month.

"We've purchased and moved into the building, and we're ready to begin construction as soon as we get the architectural plans from M State," Goranson said.

The architectural plan for the Compassion House is being designed by M State architectural students as a class project; M State students will also be providing some land surveying services for the Compassion House project as well.

The next goal is to get the facility's board and lodging license completed and approved, Goranson said.

Goranson and Kohler are the latest additions to The Refuge's paid staff, while Jeanne Mercer of the Family Resource Center recently became the newest member of its volunteer board of directors.

Mercer joins Mel Manning, president; Scott Allie, vice president; Cindy Lou Ebberhardt, treasurer; Martha Rocheford, secretary; and Les Peterson, trustee board member.

Both Mercer and Peterson are enthusiastic participants in the Compassion House project, as well as the thrift store.

Peterson noted that one of the main features of the new thrift store will be a large picture window that was salvaged from the old Stop-N-Go building in Detroit Lakes, before it was demolished earlier this summer.

Currently, Peterson noted, items that have been donated for the thrift store are being temporarily housed in a nearby storage facility, but "we have to be out of that place in a couple of months," he added.

Besides the salvaged picture windows, the new thrift store and shelter will be using light fixtures donated by Mark's Electric -- one of many such community donations toward the project, Peterson said.

"One of the reasons we are able to do this is that people are donating so much (toward the project)," he added, noting that he feels the healthy amount of donations that have come in for the shelter project are a strong sign of community support.

Mercer said that the Compassion House will be coordinating its efforts with Mahube Community Council, the Minnesota Workforce Center and area mental health professionals to help those homeless individuals who come to them for shelter.

"We really hope to wrap our arms around the people who are homeless and help them transition to a better life, and use our community's resources to take the next step up instead of over to the next homeless shelter," Mercer said.

Currently, "there's really nothing like this for the homeless in Detroit Lakes," Goranson said, noting that many of the homeless people coming to the Refuge for assistance have to be referred to Fargo.

"And Fargo's shelters are full," Mercer added.

Though much volunteer time, effort and financial support has already been given to make the Compassion House a reality, much more is needed, Goranson added.

To help raise funds for the project, The Refuge will be hosting its annual Harvest Music Festival this Saturday, Aug. 20 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Detroit Lakes City Park Bandshell.

Live worship bands and inspirational music from various local artists will be featured.

In addition to the music, there will be a silent auction, raffle drawings, and, "Great food -- there's always great food around here!" Mercer said.

The picnic-style meal will include burgers, Polish sausage, "loaded" baked potatoes, chips, dessert and beverage.

The cost of the meal is $6 for adults and $3 for kids, with all proceeds from the dinner, silent auction and raffle to go toward the Compassion House, Helping Hands Thrift Store, Our Daily Bread Free Meal Program and Celebrate Recovery.

"There's also an October fundraiser in the works," said Mel Manning, who co-founded The Refuge with his wife Shirley in 2006.

"We will continue to have fundraisers throughout the year -- it's a chance for the community to support and be a part of something special," he added.

For more information about The Refuge and its various outreach programs, including Compassion House, please call 218-847-1982 or visit the website at You can also send e-mail to