Plan to address homelessness is developed
DICKINSON - Five goals are at the heart of a plan to erase homelessness in southwestern North Dakota within 10 years. A state grant sponsored by the city of Dickinson has funded a homeless study that was contracted through Dickinson's Community A...
DICKINSON - Five goals are at the heart of a plan to erase homelessness in southwestern North Dakota within 10 years.
A state grant sponsored by the city of Dickinson has funded a homeless study that was contracted through Dickinson's Community Action Partnership. CAP is a non-profit agency that provides services to individuals and families to help them become self sufficient.
CAP Executive Director Erv Bren reviewed the findings of the study's outcome with the Dickinson City Commission Tuesday evening.
"There are always a small percentage of people who are left behind," Bren said. "A lot of those people are homeless."
Bren said homeless individuals in the state are referred to as the "hidden homeless" as they are not found on our streets. Instead, the study states these individuals may be "couch surfing" with friends and families, may have fled domestic violence at home or may have been released from treatment programs with no home to return to.
They also simply may not have the skills or income to acquire or maintain housing. Bren said the main reasons for homeless individuals in this region include unemployment due to lack of skills, mental illness, severe or major medical problems, substance abuse and inability to afford housing.
"Seventy percent of the homeless individuals are people who have always lived in southwestern North Dakota," Bren added in stating these people are "homegrown."
The study reports homelessness costs taxpayers between $75,000 and $100,000 per month in this region.
The regional study uses the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development definition for homeless as an individual who does not have a permanent residence. More specifically, a person is considered homeless if, without HUD assistance, he or she would have to spend the night in a homeless shelter or in a place not meant for human habitation.
He said completely eliminating homelessness may be an ambitious goal, but reducing the number of homeless individuals can be accomplished.
The five goals stated in the regional study include:
-To retain a solid foundation of financial resources to adequately address the issue of homelessness.
-To increase skill building to prevent and reduce homelessness.
-To provide a support system to homeless individuals in order to obtain and or maintain adequate housing.
-To increase community education and community involvement in homelessness issues.
-To provide appropriate housing to meet all homeless needs.
"It's a community problem. I think we all need to work together," Bren said of the homeless situation.
The focus for the Dickinson CAP is working with homeless adults who are without children, Bren said. Homeless individuals with children or families are referred to the Dickinson Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis program.
Bren said homeless individuals working through the CAP can stay from five days to five weeks in one of three rooms they rent on an ongoing basis at a local motel. Over 12 months, the CAP served 68 individuals while also denying 20 to 25 individuals, most of whom were transient, Bren said.
"We refer a lot of people to Bismarck because we're full," he said.
Bren feels educating people at a young age about the fact that homeless individuals do exist in southwestern North Dakota is one of the best ways to help address the issue.