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Letter: Need for housing services for homeless is very clear

As collaborative providers of homeless and housing services throughout Fargo-Moorhead and the Red River Valley region, we support Churches United for the Homeless’ efforts to help address a significant need for affordable supportive housing.

In 2013 alone, the five shelters serving our community provided a collective 105,932 nights of shelter to men, women and families facing homelessness, domestic violence and economic devastation. Each organization is unique in its approach to service delivery and population served, but we stand united in our belief that homelessness is a community challenge that we must work together to solve.

According to the 2012 Wilder Research survey, approximately 874 people are homeless in Fargo-Moorhead on any given night. Together, the five local shelters have a bed capacity of 273. Each local shelter has been operating at or above capacity for the past several years.

People who have experienced homelessness are all around us, they are our neighbors, co-workers and friends. It is not accurate to assume individuals who have been homeless or are currently homeless are not good neighbors or citizens. One-third of Americans are one paycheck away from bankruptcy. Medical bills are the No. 1 cause of bankruptcies and unpaid mortgages in the U.S. – homelessness can happen to anyone.

Those who access our emergency shelter services are staying longer because the pathway out of poverty is often a daunting and difficult road. Supportive housing makes the transition from a shelter to sustaining one’s home less overwhelming and increases the likelihood that people who have been homeless will maintain their own independent housing. Providing more units of supportive housing is the best thing we as a community can do to help people break the cycle of homelessness.

Our agencies have more than two centuries of collective experience in providing shelter and housing services. People do not desire or wish to be homeless. Those facing homelessness want what we all want: a place to call home, a place to raise their children, and a place to work to provide a better life for their families.

We stand together in support of Churches United for the Homeless’ efforts to help more families have a place to call home.

Eliassen is with the Gladys Ray Shelter; Ellner is with Dorothy Day House of Hospitality; Prochnow is with the YWCA; Swiers is with the New Life Center, all of Fargo and Moorhead.