It Takes a Village: How the F-M Community is Working to Help the Homeless
The winter is an especially hard time for the homeless in the F–M area.
“Some of the more chronic individuals that typically sleep outside will come in excess because it’s too cold to sleep outside,” said Jillian Struxness, who is the City of Fargo’s Homeless Outreach Specialist.
With shelters already close to capacity year round, the additional bodies in the winter can be a big strain.
Last year, the Gladys Ray Shelter estimated the homeless population of Fargo–Moorhead to be nearly 600 people.
“That does not include anybody that was incarcerated, in the hospital or in treatment, or somebody that was doubled up with a family member or a friend,” added Struxness. “We only have 335 shelter beds including overflow in the winter.”
Law enforcement, community leaders and homeless advocates are coming together to brainstorm ways to get those numbers down.
“We want to start moving away from band–aids,” said Fargo Police Officer Jesseca White. “We want to start solving this problem long–term; trying to get people housed, get people off the streets.”
Fargo Police has already implemented some programs to try and cut down on jail time for homeless people repeatedly arrested for small crimes.
The program includes trading jail time for community service.
“It didn’t seem cost effective to keep putting these people in jail for a long time for these types of offenses,” said Officer White.
Struxness is working to help cut down on police interaction with the homeless.
“The more times these individuals are cited or arrested, the more difficult it is to get them housed,” she explained.
The two main things both Struxness and Officer White agree on is creating more affordable housing and community involvement to solve the homeless issue.
“It takes a village,” said Struxness. “It really does. It takes everybody on board with the same mentality and same belief system to really make a difference and make some positive changes.”