As the temperatures rise, the reality is — there are still people living out in the streets, right here in our state.
Two weeks ago, we reported on the Continuum of Care’s “Point-in-Time” count. It’s a national effort to combat homelessness, but the groups KX News met with say that counting how many people are living on the streets isn’t enough.
They say: How are we, as a state, going to take the initiative to help?
Sue Shirek, the ND Coalition for Homeless People chair says, “We think that just because we live in North Dakota and it’s too cold for people to be sleeping in doorways, and in parks and on sidewalks in the wintertime that we don’t have homelessness.”
But we do, it may look different than other states. And the biggest issue right now you may ask?
Shirek responds, “Having affordable housing that we can move people into.”
Mark Meier, founder at Heaven’s Helpers Soup Cafe says, “We hear they got two nights in a hotel but what happens after that or in between those times? I think a lot of times they are walking around at night and just trying to stay warm at gas stations and different things like that. It’s a tough situation in weather like this.”
A situation that has caused at least one death this winter.
Sister Kathleen with Ministry on the Margins says, “We do have to remember that in October we did have one death of a person due to exposure. My hope is that we don’t have another death.”
So how are people falling through the cracks?
Bobbi Jo Zueger, the Person in Charge at theSoup Cafe says, “There aren’t enough places to house these people. You know, you see all these resources, but I’m sure people are depleted of resources.”
Zueger says she directs people in need to places within the homeless coalition for help.
Zueger adds, “You see them on the streets, we give them sleeping bags, we try to make them as comfortable as possible. Feeding them, providing them with additional food. But it is definitely a need for more housing.”
So the question remains: “How can I make a difference where I live? And, it’s about being educated,” Sue asks.
Mark says, “But, It seems kinda sketchy. There’s no real seamless transition to housing.”
Sister Kathleen explains, “The reality is that things are not grey anymore for us. Being homeless has become a life or death situation.”
Sue says the new Point in Time count number will be released soon.