A survey of homelessness in North Dakota shows the number of homeless people far exceeds the ability to provide shelter.
Most are people who were attracted by the oil boom in western North Dakota. Some who move to the state don't find jobs and many can't find affordable housing.
North Dakota shelters are at capacity with about 800 people, said Michael Carbone, director of the Coalition for Homeless People. But he said a survey found nearly a thousand people still did not have shelter. The survey likely identified only a fraction of the homeless people in the state, Carbone said.
"We have our homeless emergency response system operating at full capacity and yet there are more people outside the system than within the system," Carbone said. "So we really need to make some serious efforts to try to reverse this trend."
With emergency shelters full, the state faces a crisis as winter approaches, Carbone said.
"I think it's pretty clear we can't count on another mild winter like we had last winter," he said. "That was an incredibly mild winter and we were very fortunate we had that because we had so many people unsheltered. Being that lucky two years in a row is not likely."
He said the oil boom in western North Dakota is drawing job seekers from across the country. Some can't find jobs, many can't find affordable housing. He said North Dakota needs to create more than 800 emergency and transitional housing beds.
Even western Minnesota counties and communities are feeling the ripple effects with their homeless shelters at capacity, he said. Churches are the best hope for short term emergency shelter, Carbone said, but the state needs hundreds of new low income housing units. There is also a shortage of support services like mental health care and substance abuse treatment.
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