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Heitkamp gives campaign donations from Franken to ND emergency shelter

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp holds a town hall Wednesday, March 19, 2014, at Carl Ben Eielson Middle School in in Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service file photo

BISMARCK -- Bismarck’s efforts to house the homeless got a $10,000 boost this week after Sen. Heidi Heitkamp donated campaign contributions she received from Minnesota Sen. Al Franken.

Heitkamp, D-N.D., announced she would donate the campaign contributions after a woman said Franken forcibly kissed her and groped her during a 2006 USO tour.

Heitkamp said on social media Franken’s conduct was “inappropriate and unacceptable” and she planned to donate his contributions to the Missouri Slope Areawide United Way.

The United Way has provided emergency shelter for more than 50 people after Ruth Meiers Hospitality House in Bismarck abruptly closed its men’s emergency shelter last month.

“United Way is actively incurring expenses and has been as of Oct. 27,” said Jena Gullo, executive director. “This generous donation from Sen. Heitkamp will allow us to ensure people continue to be served.”

The funds came from Franken’s Political Action Committee, Midwest Values PAC.

Heitkamp’s sister, Melanie Heitkamp, is executive director of Youthworks, which serves runaway and homeless youth and has been involved with addressing Bismarck-Mandan’s emergency housing crisis.

The United Way is accepting donations for emergency housing through its website,

The United Way continues to work with community leaders to find a location for a shelter. In the meantime, the agency is meeting with people in need each day to connect them with emergency housing.

“This is a statewide problem and we’re coming up with a solution, not just to get us through the winter months, but for a long-term plan,” Gullo said.