Wide Gap Between Homeless Native American Population and Services in Metro Area

They said this mostly has to do with deeply rooted generational, cultural and historical problems.

FARGO, N.D. — Experts said there’s a huge gap between homeless Native Americans and local service providers.

A recent report shows roughly three in 10 homeless people in the F-M area are Native American.

More than 100 emergency shelter care providers and social workers from the area are working to break down cultural barriers with Native American homeless persons.

“We’re trying to build a bridge between those gaps and start to learn different strategies and different ways that we can better serve the homeless population here in Fargo-Moorhead,” said Audra Stonefish, a Native American homeless advocate who primarily works at the Gladys Ray Shelter of Fargo.

These experts said to fully understand why the Native American homeless population is prominent, we must first look at the historical context.

“It is kind of ironic,” said Department of Public Health Chairman Dr. Donald Warne, with NDSU. “You think about North Dakota. Dakota is a tribe.”

When colonists began settling the U.S., many Native Americans went to the southern Rockies, Oklahoma and the Dakotas.

For generations, these regions will continue to become densely populated with Native American people.

Experts at the Homelessness 201 event said many of these clients come from smaller reservation towns with little to no infrastructure.

Basic things like nutritious food are hard to get.

“We have a lack of resources and high rates of poverty in our reservation communities,” said Dr. Warne. “People come to the cities for different opportunities, including education and housing and job opportunities.”

He said these people are coming to Fargo from places all across the Dakotas, Minnesota, Montana and Nebraska.

“We have to understand the historical context to know why we have such high rates of poverty and social circumstances,” said Dr. Warne. “One of the outcomes, unfortunately, is high rates of homelessness. We need to invest in social services. We need to invest in the types of programs that are going to prevent long term problems.”

“I think the best thing that people can do right now to help is to just be more empathetic,” said Stonefish. “Be more compassionate and just be a little bit more patient with some of these guys. Some of them grew up with a very traumatic childhood or upbringing.”

Stonefish said she’s able to use her background story to better relate to her clients.

She and many other experts are working with hundreds to help break down these cultural barriers and work toward solutions.

They said chemical dependency is a problem dealt with by many of their clients.

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