Memorial walk held for more than 150 homeless people who died in Fargo-Moorhead since 2009
FARGO — On the official first day of winter, and the longest night of the year, it can be a worrisome time f or those without a home.
More than 50 community members walked for Homeless Memorial Day in Fargo on Friday, Dec. 21, to remember more than 150 homeless people who have died in the Fargo-Moorhead area since January 2009.
They trekked four blocks from First Presbyterian Church to First Lutheran to honor those who died. Harsh North Dakota winters are tough for the state's homeless population, local advocates said.
"That's part of the reality living in Fargo and in Moorhead is that we have this dangerous cold every year," said Lisa Richmond, long-term housing case manager at Dorothy Day House. "It's crucial to us just to protect everyone from, God forbid, sleeping out in this cold weather."
People at the march also discussed a new federal report they say underestimates the problem in North Dakota. A U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development report released Tuesday, Dec. 18 showed homelessness declined by 50 percent, a figure area shelters dispute.
Cody Schuler of the Fargo-Moorhead Coalition to End Homeless said the counts are done by volunteers, and that the drop reported by HUD doesn't reflect reality. Service providers across the state have reached out to the federal agency reporting the number has not decreased, and that it, in fact, has increased in some areas.
Strained resources and fewer volunteers this year may have affected the count, Schuler said, outlining why he believes the report is inaccurate.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development looks into many factors when giving federal funds., and the count is important as it could impact funding in North Dakota.
Schuler said they're working with local, state, and national leaders to address their concerns, and a new count will come out in late January.