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Maureen McMullen, Published December 20 2013

Uplift Fargo Moorhead starts fund drive to buy bus passes for homeless residents

MOORHEAD – Imagine walking several miles to work through freezing temperatures, only to make the same trek home after an eight-hour shift.

This cold, and often dangerous, walk is a daily occurrence for many of Fargo-Moorhead’s 760 homeless residents.

John Roberts, director of Shelter Operations at Churches United for the Homeless in Moorhead, said limited transportation is a common problem among residents at the shelter.

“Many are working and need to get to jobs, or need to get to interviews or get applications for jobs,” Roberts said. “Only a small fraction of residents at homeless shelters have cars.”

Though taking a MATBUS offers a warmer alternative to walking through winter weather, Roberts said many of the shelter’s residents struggle to pay for bus passes, which cost $1.50 for a single-use ticket.

In response to this transportation need, Uplift Fargo Moorhead took to Facebook, creating an event to raise $5,000 to buy 3,333 single-use bus passes by the end of the year.

Mara Morken Fogarty, an Uplift volunteer, said the group’s raised more than $1,000 within 24 hours of its launch.

As of Wednesday, Uplift’s donations totaled $3,062.50, 61 percent of its goal.

“It’s not really huge donations. It’s a lot of people giving a little bit,” said Morken Fogarty. “The amount of people, more than the amount they give, means a lot, and it’s been really impressive.”

In addition to online donations, Roberts said about $1,100 in donations were brought to the shelter.

Serious issue

Morken Fogarty and five other women, including Moorhead Mayor-elect Del Rae Williams, comprise Uplift Fargo Moorhead’s committee.

The idea for a bus pass drive stemmed from a visit to Churches United to see where the most help was needed.

“Our shelter staff gets asked every day for bus passes, and we just don’t have the budget,” Roberts said. “With the donations we’re receiving, we’ll be able to do that.”

While committee members have their own reason for working with Uplift, each takes the issue of homelessness seriously.

“People, when they think of homelessness, don’t think about children or adolescents,” said committee member Lillian Jones, who recalled seeing a school-aged child return to Churches United from school wearing only flip-flops in the middle of winter.

“Homelessness, beyond Fargo-Moorhead, is an incredibly difficult and dynamic problem because when the average person sees a homeless person, there’s some guilt and shame, but there’s also some blame,” said Morken Fogarty. “I think that we can do better, and I think we are doing better.”

This is Uplift Fargo Moorhead’s first project. Committee members said they will continue to help the community, not just with homelessness, but wherever there is a need.

For more information about Uplift Fargo Moorhead or to donate, visit www.upliftfargomoorhead.com.