HUD Secretary Ben Carson Tours Housing Facility in Grand Forks

He says local, state and federal officials must work together to implement more "housing-first" projects

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Sometimes, life throws you one curve ball after another. 

“I worked at Canad Inns for eight and a half years, then my wife passed away and I kind of lost it. Ended up at the Northlands Rescue Mission. I lost my job at Canad Inns. Just couldn’t handle my wife passing away,” said LaGrave on First resident Mike Kittle.

Mike went without permanent housing for two years, until LaGrave on First opened its doors one year ago and let him in.

The housing facility provides homes and supportive services for the chronically homeless, implementing what they call a housing-first approach.

“There aren’t a bunch of requirements like you need to have sobriety or a certain period of sobriety to get in, or you have to get your mental health symptoms under control or anything like that. We provide housing first, and then you work on those issues,” said the facility Program Director Terry DeMars.

Sen. Hoeven worked with Sec. of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson nearly two years ago to secure a voucher for the 9 million dollar apartment complex.

“One of the things that works extremely well is when people at the state and at the local, as well as the federal, work in conjunction to make things happen. You know, that’s how LaGrave on First got built. And you look at that place, and it’s immaculate,” said Sec. Carson.

He says pushing to get more facilities like LaGrave into more cities is simply smart economics.

Chronic homelessness sometimes leads to physical and mental health issues, substance abuse and legal difficulties that may be more taxing on communities.

“If you take people and you do nothing for them, and you leave them on the street, guess what happens? It costs on average 33-44,000 dollars a year for somebody on the street. It costs half of that much if you do something for them,” said Sec. Carson.

Many of the local officials Sen. Hoeven and Sec. Carson are hearing from also stress the importance of local and federal collaboration.

“We’re hoping that these programs stay in place, maybe even give a little more flexibility. It took a long time to sell these tax credits with the federal government involved, with us involved. But now Bismark is working on a similar project. Fargo’s working on another project that might be similar to this. We’d like to get down and visit with them and see how they’re doing, see if we can collaborate a little bit better together as well, too,” said Chair of the Grand Forks Housing Authority, Curt Kreun.

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