WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) — Concordia Lutheran Church, a small Missouri Synod congregation in Williston, N.D., has 30 to 40 job-seekers sleeping in its building on a typical night, with dozens more staying in their vehicles in the church parking lot.
Since May of last year, some 450 people — primarily men — have slept inside the church while they searched for work and housing. New arrivals to Williston are often unprepared for the city's severe housing shortage driven by the influx of people looking for oil jobs.
Guests are allowed access to Concordia's church building no earlier than 9 p.m. unless they're part of a Bible study. Doors lock at 11 p.m., and everyone needs to be out of the building and parking lots by 8 a.m. They also take turns doing cleaning chores each morning.
Concordia's pastor, the Rev. Jay Reinke (RYN'-kee) says the unfamiliar men make some church members and neighbors uncomfortable, but some of the overnighters have taken classes to join the church, and two of them have been baptized.