- Associated Press - Monday, April 20, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - A Bismarck soup kitchen that serves the homeless is now looking for a new home.

A nondenominational Christian ministry has operated the Heaven’s Helpers Soup Cafe in a converted gas station for six years. It serves almost 200 people every day, but proprietor Mark Meier told The Bismarck Tribune (https://bit.ly/1O7EmoW ) he was notified this month that his lease is being terminated at the end of May.

Property owner and former Bismarck mayor Marlan Haakenson said he is selling all of his commercial property in the area as he approaches 80 years of age, and that his real estate agent advised him the property would be more attractive to potential buyers if the soup kitchen wasn’t there.

Haakenson said he also has received complaints from his other tenants about the soup kitchen clientele.

“The major problem … is not the homeless and the poor, it’s the homeless and the poor that are criminals,” he said. “Some people are just really bad people, but God tells us to help everyone. But at some point, you think God should speak to them and say, ‘Straighten up and fly right, man.’”

Volunteers at the Soup Cafe said there is no significant criminal element among their patrons.

“Everyone that comes in here, they know the rules,” volunteer Alan Tolling said. “If they’ve been drinking, we say, ‘You’ve got to go,’ and they don’t get belligerent.”

Donna Connor, a volunteer since the soup kitchen’s opening, said she has never felt unsafe as a woman working at the location.

Haakenson said he supports the Soup Cafe mission and is helping search for a new location.

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, https://www.bismarcktribune.com

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