Slideshow image
Slideshow image
Slideshow image
Slideshow image
Slideshow image
nav image
nav image
nav image
nav image
nav image

Headline: Churches United near finish line on $4.3 million renovation of Micah’s Mission Shelter and Community Center

By Pastor Devlyn Brooks

MOORHEAD, Minn. -- Aside from a few cosmetic projects such as paint touchups and some trim boards here and there, Churches United is about to wrap up a $4.3 million, 14-month renovation of its Micah’s Mission Shelter and Community Center located in north Moorhead.

And it’s not a moment too soon as the renovation project will allow the shelter to house even more people and families in a safe environment at a time when the Fargo-Moorhead region is seeing a growing number of people without permanent housing, says Churches United Chief Executive Officer, Pastor Sue Koesterman.

“There are more people sleeping outside in Fargo-Moorhead than we’ve ever seen,” Koesterman said, adding that on any given night in the metro area there are likely 1,300 people without shelter. “But there are only less than 500 shelter beds around town.”

The sorely needed renovation has done much to revitalize the former furniture store building that Churches United has called home since 2004. Prior to that, the shelter, which opened in 1987, was operated out of a former church in central Moorhead.

However, as one can imagine, the infrastructure needs of a furniture store and a shelter for families and single people differ immensely. The current renovation has helped address some of the structural issues the shelter has lived with since moving to its current location 20 years ago.

Planning for the renovation began years ago, Koesterman said, and the shelter received word in October 2022 from Minnesota’s Office of Economic Opportunity that they received a grant of $4 million for the project. Other sources of funding include a Moorhead Community Development Block Grant ($171,000), a “Big Dreams” grant from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America ($150,000), and an Otto Bremer Trust grant ($75,000).

Construction started in February 2023 and is ending more than a year later.

Sitting in a renovated, spacious, and naturally lit office on the first floor, Koesterman, who is also an ordained pastor in the ELCA, contentedly sighs when contemplating the renovation’s completion. … These important changes have been a long time coming, the look on her face says.

The various grant money allowed for numerous changes and updates throughout the building, but some of the biggest changes included:

  • The building's heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system has been updated, upgrading from eight rooftop units previously to 10 now. In addition, boilers have been added so that the entire building can finally be adequately heated, something not possible before.
  • The first-floor medication room and reception area were revamped. Being the med room serves as the “heartbeat of the mission,” Koesterman said, it’s important that the room now offers more privacy. This room is where they do guest intake assessments, disseminate medications, and hold intervention conversations, all of which are more feasible now because of the increased privacy. As for the updates to the reception area, the director says there is more of a “hotel reception area” feel now versus how the entry used to feel as if you were going into a jail facility.
  • New to the facility will be a community computer room on the first floor for guests at the shelter to use. In this day and age, when technology is needed for everything from staying in touch with case workers to applying for jobs, Koesterman said this new amenity will help many people move into permanent housing by giving them access to the digital resources they need.
  • A big change that many won’t notice is that two former offices, also on the first floor, were combined to provide a space for dry food storage directly across the hallway from the kitchen. This seemingly small change will yield big results, allowing the shelter staff to better track their inventory and eliminating the need for the kitchen staff to haul up supplies from the basement.
  • On a recent tour of the facility, Koesterman stops before heading down the broad steps leading to the building’s lower level. “This is where the visible magic is happening!” she beams. Prior to this renovation project, the basement’s uses were limited. Without a heating source, no HVAC infrastructure, and no natural lightning, the basement wasn’t much good for anything but storage. Now, though, there’s big changes.
    • The Churches United Development and Finance staff now all have offices in the basement, as does the Facility Manager, who also received a new tool storage room.
    • There’s a newly renovated, professional-looking, dual-purpose conference and boardroom that will contain all the necessary communications and technology equipment in this digital age.
    • There’s a new employee breakroom and kitchenette area, as well as a second staff bathroom now, and a more functional central storage bay.
    • Most importantly though, is that the basement will now house a brand-new family shelter space, including eight rooms with configurable furniture that can sleep up to six people. This area includes three new family space bathrooms, one of which has a roll-in accessible shower and the other two with tubs. Additionally, this space features a washer and dryer available to the families housed here.

After the tour, in her office again, Koesterman's smile grows bigger and bigger as she talks about what these new changes will mean for the shelter's operations. But she and her team don’t have long to dwell on this big milestone. After all, Churches United’s mission has grown much larger than the one main shelter that many are familiar with.

In total, Churches United now encompasses five sites, three of which are staffed 24 hours a day, every day. The organization requires 62 staffers to care for it all. In addition to Micah’s Mission, the organization also operates:

  • Dorothy Day House in Moorhead, a shelter for men only.
  • Dorothy Day Food Pantries located in Moorhead and West Fargo.
  • Bright Sky Apartments, which are permanent supportive housing for families.
  • And opening soon will be Silver Linings Apartments, 36 units of permanent supportive housing for seniors 55 and older.

In 2021, Churches United provided shelter for more than 1,250 people while distributing 1,346,000 pounds of food throughout the metro region. And the needs just keep growing.

Koesterman said a common misperception in the community is that because Churches United has received a number of large grants in recent years, they must be doing well financially. But, she said, the money that paid for the renovations of Micah’s Mission, and a new $721,000 grant that will cover renovations of the Dorothy Day Food Pantry in Moorhead, could only be used for “bricks and mortar” expenses.

None of those dollars helps Churches United pay for staff or the services needed by its hundreds of guests each month.

“There is a misconception in the community that because of the renovations, we don’t need money to operate,” she said. “But that’s just not true. The needs are greater than ever.”

Operating for more than 30 years now, Churches United is the preeminent provider of shelter services to Fargo-Moorhead’s homeless population. With more than 150 supporting congregations across the region, the shelter relies on its faith community partners for prayer, donations, and volunteers to help meet its mission of providing safe shelter, stable housing, nutritious food and a path toward healing.

The organization is led by a 13-member governing board and six committees of the board. Members of the board of directors and the committees are mostly drawn from faith communities that support the mission of Churches United. 

For more information on how to donate to or to volunteer at Churches United, contact or