Project Heat Helps Williston Homeless - KXNet.com - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson-KXNEWS,ND

Project Heat Helps Williston Homeless

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Nearly 1,000 people are classified as homeless in Williams County and surrounding townships.

95 percent of those surveyed by the North Dakota Homeless Coalition stated that they moved to North Dakota to find work --- and 72 percent of them ARE currently employed.

Homelessness is not always defined as living on the streets, but as Jennifer Kleen tells us, for the dozen-or-so who do not have shelter in Williston --- Project Heat aims to provide for the most basic wintertime need.

Take a moment to think about how cold it is outside; about how your finger tips and the tops of your ears hurt after a short time, maybe just in the walk to your house.

Now imagine you don't have a house to walk to.

What would you do?

(Katie Long, Williston Economic Development Communications Director) "If he had a place to stay, would he be taking that risk in three sleeping bags on the side of the road in a negative 25 degree night?"

Long says the problem with a funded community shelter is that the city would then required to provide meals, medical care, and mental health services.

(Katie Long, Williston Economic Development Communications Director) "When it's 16 below outside and you know it's going to hit 35 below in the next hour or two, you're not worried about someone filling out a five page intake form. You want to get them inside and you want to get them warm. That's the goal for Project Heat here in town."

Project Heat is a multi-denominational effort to provide the most basic need: get people out of the cold.

(Pastor Chris Swarthout, New Hope Wesleyan Church) "You are found in a place where you didn't think this would really be happening to you. To come in and think, I get a place to sleep tonight, I can have a fresh start tomorrow."

Ten beds will be reserved at a crew camp; the location is not being shared.

Those in need will instead meet at The Salvation Army downtown.

(Cpt. Joshua Stansbury, The Salvation Army) "We're a block from the train station so people can come in and we can share the information that we have."

The North Dakota Homeless Coalition survey identified 986 homeless individuals in Williston.

That's broken into 482 households missing sewer, water, electricity --- all are classified as homeless --- but most do have a form of shelter.

(Katie Long, Williston Economic Development Communications Director) "That leaves us with a small portion. A very small portion that are actually out on the street and looking for real shelter."

After checking in at The Salvation Army, the individual will have one of ten spots at the shelter --- after two weeks, that spot will no longer be guaranteed.

(Katie Long, Williston Economic Development Communications Director) "We want everyone to share that responsibility that we have as a community to help our citizens. Our fellow citizens. Whether they be temporary or permanent."

Not to be left out in the cold, multiple agencies have taken charge for Project Heat.

Making an effort to close the door on homelessness.

In Williston, Jennifer Kleen, KX News.

Project Heat will run from February 10 - March 31.

Next winter, the same group hopes to extend the dates to run through the five months of winter weather.

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