Seeking means to an end
A couple of weeks ago, a tenant who had lived quietly for three years in a subsidized Fargo apartment began behaving erratically. The man walked up and down the hallway for two hours, hollering and pounding on doors until another tenant hit him a...
A couple of weeks ago, a tenant who had lived quietly for three years in a subsidized Fargo apartment began behaving erratically.
The man walked up and down the hallway for two hours, hollering and pounding on doors until another tenant hit him and knocked him down.
Lynn Fundingsland, executive director of the Fargo Housing and Redevelopment Authority, said the man likely will be evicted because he's a threat to other tenants. But Fundingsland doesn't want the man to become homeless.
"So, now I can't house him anymore. I can't keep him. So what do I do?" he said.
Finding an answer to that and other tough questions took center stage Tuesday at Fargo City Hall, as a group of 40 community leaders began meeting to address the gaps that allow long-term homelessness to continue.
The committee is following a federal directive requiring cities to develop 10-year plans to end chronic homelessness.
It's a daunting task, said Jessica Thomasson, Fargo community development planner.
"And yet, I think it's a goal that's attainable, especially when you have a group of people with the variety of experience we have in this room," she said.
Tuesday's meeting - the first of four - focused on understanding homelessness in Fargo.
The 10-year plan will focus specifically on long-term homelessness, defined as a homeless individual with a disabling condition who is continuously homeless for at least one year or has experienced four or more episodes of homelessness in the last three years.
The most recent one-day survey of Fargo's homeless population, on Jan. 26, 2005, found the city with 249 homeless people, 66 of them chronically homeless.
Fargo accounted for 38 percent of North Dakota's homeless population, compared to 26 percent of the overall population, the state's Point-in-Time survey found.
Gary Groberg, executive director at Churches United for the Homeless in Moorhead, said 75 percent of people served by the shelter come from Cass or Clay counties or elsewhere in North Dakota and Minnesota.
"If they're in Ulen or Hitterdal or Kindred and they need any kind of services, they're going to come to Fargo," he said.
Ending homelessness isn't identical to ending poverty or promoting economic self-sufficiency, Thomasson said. In fact, 41 percent of homeless people in Fargo were employed in October 2003 - 18 percent of them full time, according to a survey by the Wilder Research Center. However, bad credit or a criminal history may prevent them from obtaining housing.
Mental health and substance abuse also play a major role in homelessness, committee members said. Local shelters can provide temporary stability and support, said Judy Green, executive director of the YWCA shelter in Fargo.
"It's just once they move forward and get out on their own again, the cycle begins all over again," she said.
James Thomas, coordinator of Native American Programs in Fargo, said homelessness has been addressed locally, but not to this magnitude.
"This is long overdue," he said.
The committee will meet again Feb. 22, April 4 and May 2. Thomasson said she hopes to have the plan finished by summer.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528