Advocates question federal homeless report

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Reports to the federal government says homeless rates have declined—50 percent in North Dakota.
But local organizations say they don’t believe those numbers are accurate, and it could have a big impact here at home.

The Housing and Urban Development recently released its annual 2017-2018 homeless report.
 In North Dakota, it showed that the number of homeless people declined by 50 percent. 

These numbers were given by the North Dakota Coalition for homeless people for their annual point in time count. There were errors made in multiple data submissions and the numbers were not accurate.

“Our state has had some struggles in having funds to provide services for homeless individuals, so unfortunately some of the head counts just didn’t happen. So, we know we had an undercount,” said Mark Heinert, Program Manager at Youthworks/ Past Chair of the NDCHP.

Each year, homeless providers submit a point in time count to HUD where they count how any people are homeless in the state. 

This year many organizations doing the count had low resources, lack of staff and more.  

“The numbers submitted were lower and we knew that they were lower. We had asked HUD if we can make corrections to that, but they chose to put out the numbers anyway,”  said Heinert.

Not only did it raise questions for advocates, but also local organization like United Way. 

“In 2017 we reported over 900. In 2018 there was just under 400. So, based on the numbers that North Dakota reported to HUD there is a big decrease. But, we have not seen a decrease in our emergency shelter. United Way had to open up a shelter last winter and the numbers have been steady,” said Jena Gullo, Executive Director of the Missouri Slope Areawide United Way .

 But with HUD’s report, Gullo says it could take a toll on funding.

“That can affect funding whether it is from the United Way, federal funding or state funding. We are rely hoping that these numbers don’t decrease the amount given to our state from the federal funds that come through. We need dollars,” said Gullo.

 NDCHP hopes to get more funding and train people on how to submit numbers in the future. 
Since the report United Way has been providing help on reporting to other organizations. 
 

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