Room needed: Leaders look at help for homeless hereA group of community leaders met on Thursday to address a growing concern that is oftentimes overlooked in Jamestown —homelessness. Fifteen people ranging from local clergy members, to law enforcement, relief agencies, local experts and an elected official met at Trinity Lutheran Church to start forming a plan to address a growing homeless population.
By: By Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
A group of community leaders met on Thursday to address a growing concern that is oftentimes overlooked in Jamestown —homelessness.
Fifteen people ranging from local clergy members, to law enforcement, relief agencies, local experts and an elected official met at Trinity Lutheran Church to start forming a plan to address a growing homeless population.
Much of the discussion focused on how to identify if there is a need for a homeless shelter in Jamestown.
Sandy Bendewald, director of Stutsman County Social Services, said the information provided in a plan created in 2007 — with the goal of ending homelessness here in 10 years’ time — needs to be updated.
“At that time it was determined there wasn’t a need for a shelter — that was not the direction to go,” Bendewald said.
The creation of a homeless shelter here would involve multiple entities that would work together not just to gather the data and create a plan but also to implement the plan.
“There’s never one entity responsible for taking it all the way through the end,” she said. “Everyone around this table has a piece, there is no one responsible person or entity or anything.”
Local religious leaders said they would discuss with their congregations the possibility of finding or creating a group that would operate any possible shelter.
While that happens, another group would have to look into updating the most recent data with a study, possibly completed in part with a research firm.
The most recent data from a point-in-time survey conducted in July 2011 estimated that the nine-county south central region of North Dakota had 47 homeless individuals.
The number is often more, according to David Klein, Stutsman County Housing Authority director.
“We are seeing some really different and strange things happening and happening very rapidly,” Klein said.
Klein reported some statistics he received from the South Central Human Service Center:
* in the past eight months seven people were found living outdoors here, two in below-zero weather.
* four families with more than one child lost their places to live due to rent increases.
* 98 individuals were at the risk of being homeless, with none of those groups overlapping.
Those numbers reflect just people who qualify for assistance through SCHSC.
“The most challenging individuals to help find an apartment are those with any felonies or sex offenders,” Klein said.
There are also three different types of homeless as classified by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development.
The first type includes people who are currently homeless. These people currently have no roofs over their heads at night. They could be living out of cars or out on the street.
The second homeless classification from HUD is those who are at risk of becoming homeless.
The third type of homeless in HUD’s classification system is those who are considered hidden homeless. This is the hardest type to count because these people typically stay on a couch or the floor in one place and move on to other places after a while.
“As we look at this we do need to find some really good numbers to identify, because it’s really hard to apply for some of these grants, it’s hard to find a space, it’s hard to work with the agencies if we don’t have a number,” Klein said.
But the problem is so big across the state that a shelter here would be filled with people from other cities, Klein said.
Shelters in Bismarck, Fargo, Grand Forks and Minot are at or near capacity.
“Anytime you’re going to open that up, Fargo, Bismarck, Grand Forks, Minot are going to send them here, Aberdeen is in the same mode as well,” Klein said.
Lt. Teresa Brecto of the Jamestown Salvation Army offered to work as a lead agency and visit regional homeless shelter.
Jamestown Mayor Katie Andersen also brought up the idea of offering financial incentives to developers that would help finance a project.
“I anticipate that Jamestown will see a large boom in our multi-family units coming up here,” Andersen said. “The housing assessment shows that.”
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org