Thursday, December 1, 2011

Snapshot: Homelessness in Fargo Moorhead

Best Efforts Sometimes Not Enough – but Always Worthwhile

A discussion about severe weather shelter for homeless, who will exceed the capacity of the community’s shelter facilities took place at the monthly meeting of the Fargo-Moorhead Coalition for Homeless Persons recently. Area churches have been asked if they could help meet this need by opening and staffing their facilities on some basis to meet the growing needs. Shelters in the community are at, near, or over capacity already. The 60 members present, who represent organizations dealing with shelter, medical needs, transportation, and other needs of the homeless, recognize that this need must be dealt with quickly and continue to work toward a solution.

The members approved their agenda, heard from committees, approved a budget, and approved a policy change. Then, leaders of the Fargo Housing Authority presented a report on the first year of operations of the Cooper House which serves 42 homeless persons in individual apartments. The Cooper House is the first “housing first” shelter in Fargo and opened in May 2010.

The “snapshot” of the impacts of housing the chronically homeless showed that for the study group, healthcare and medical costs decreased by 33%. Additionally, legal and law enforcement costs were down 51%, detox costs decreased by 86% and emergency shelter nights were own 100%. This was an early snapshot and will be updated once again soon.

The homeless are real people with real lives and with very real problems. Some have not been allowed to stay at Cooper House because of problems of anger, alcoholism, and other life experiences. One story presented is an interesting example of how lives can change. In August of 2009, one future tenant visited detox 16 times. In August 2010, after moving into Cooper House, that same person celebrated his 100th day of sobriety.

The Fargo Moorhead Coalition for Homeless Persons was formally incorporated as a 501©3 in 2007. Since then, two “housing first” shelters have been built and opened in the Fargo Moorhead community as well as an emergency shelter (overnight stays only) and a coordination of services with shelter providers and others in the communities. The organization has brought about a much greater awareness of the needs of the homeless citizens of our communities.

Howard Barlow, NRS in the Fargo-Moorhead community

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