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Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • Officials say overflow homeless shelter use up in Fargo-Moorhead

  • John Roberts, director of Churches United, said overflow beds and the church program served 3,330 people in the winter of 2011-2012, but that number rose to 5,480 this past winter.
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  • Overflow homeless shelter occupancy was up 65 percent this past winter in the Fargo-Moorhead area, prompting shelter directors and volunteers to look for a more permanent solution to the problem.
    The Forum newspaper reported (http://bit.ly/10LyBFQ ) that from December through March, an average of 46 people a night stayed in overflow shelter beds at Churches United for the Homeless in Moorhead, New Life Center in Fargo or in the overflow sheltering program that places some people in area churches.
    John Roberts, director of Churches United, said overflow beds and the church program served 3,330 people in the winter of 2011-2012, but that number rose to 5,480 this past winter.
    The increase is causing local churches to plan for an even longer season of helping with overflow sheltering. Next year, church sheltering will be planned from mid-November to mid-April, said the Rev. Sue Koesterman of Elim Lutheran Church in Fargo.
    New Life Center will provide overflow sheltering for men through April, assistant director Rob Swiers said. Churches United will continue to provide overflow sheltering for women and families indefinitely, Roberts said.
    Officials agreed that the shelters are a temporary solution to a problem that's not going away.
    "More long-term affordable housing solutions need to be developed," Koesterman said.
    Koesterman said representatives from local churches plan to meet for the first time in May to work on improving housing options, with an aim of reaching some solutions within three years.
    Officials said they have seen an increase in applications for assistance for programs such as those that help with utilities or rent.
    Dara Lee, the executive director of Clay County Housing and Redevelopment Authority, said the waiting lists for low-income housing have been full for years, and thinks her organization is not alone.
    "None of us have enough resources to meet the demand," she said.

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