Counting the Homeless in North Dakota


That’s the number of unsheltered homeless in North Dakota, according to the Missouri Valley Coalition for Homeless People.

You may wonder, where that number, 331, comes from.

There’s a big volunteer effort that goes into counting the men and women living on our streets.
My alarm went off 2 am yesterday, so I could be a part of what the US Department of Housing and Urban Development call a Point in Time Count.

The count is done just once a year.
The goal is simple:
To count the number of homeless in every community across our state – sleeping outside or in cars.
Volunteers offer them shelter if they’ll accept it.
KX News is Putting North Dakota First by seeing how this count is about more than just a number.

“It’s heartwrenching to know that somebody is outside sleeping in this cold,” says Jeannie Messall, Director, Missouri Valley Coalition for Homeless People.

 …and it’s more people than we may realize.
Volunteers and workers walked through alleys, playgrounds, and parking lots to count the number of unsheltered homeless living in our state.

“We just ask them if there’s any services that we can provide for them, we talk about why they’re homeless, and what we can do to get them off the streets,” says Messall.

Last year’s number was 331.

“Unemployment, lack of stable housing, usually followed by addiction or mental illness…” says Messall.
“There’s a need in our community,” says Caitlin Schafer, Youthworks.

Right now, United Way is housing a large amount of the homeless population who are found without shelter..
Other nonprofits, like the Missouri Valley Coalition for Homeless People, are also playing their part.

“I’ve been providing bus passes, I’ve been helping individuals with birth certificates, IDs, transportation, I take them where they need to go,” says Messall.

Messall and I didn’t find anyone during our search – but other groups did.
I spoke with someone from Youthworks who stumbled upon several homeless people during the night…
She said it was an eye opening experience.

“I think it’s really beneficial to see it. I think everyone should see what other people are experiencing… I think it’s really humbling, says Schafer”

I was given the exclusive chance to join this year’s point in time count.

But, for the volunteers, who are walking the streets at 3 in the morning – and giving their time day in and day out… its more than just counting heads.

“It’s not a lost cause by any means. It takes a lot of work, but you know what, we have providers that are compassionate about the job that they do,” says Messall.
“I think it’s something that we all can take a part in and work together to create a more cohesive community,” says Schafer.

This year’s numbers are still being tallied up – but Schafer doesn’t expect them to be far off from last year’s count.

She says the numbers are reported to Housing Urban and Development.

That number could help funding for those in need.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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