NMF Facilitates Rapid Response to Homelessness in Beltrami County

As this blog post is being written, the temperature in Bemidji is -51 with windchill in January. Each winter in northern Minnesota, we can anticipate extreme cold weather to a certain extent, but it hasn't dipped this low since 1996.

Knowing that the threat of cold temperatures would find their way back to Northwest Minnesota, NMF hosted a meeting in October of 2018 to bring together agencies, organizations, and community leaders who serve those facing poverty and homelessness. The goal was to bring these groups together to form a coalition where they can share ideas and identify needs in order to get more people out of the cold and connected to services this winter.

"We're still seeing significant numbers of homeless," Nancy Vyskocil, NMF president was quoted saying in a Bemidji Pioneer article. "We cannot afford to go into this winter as unprepared as we really are without having the additional resources we need, because we'll have deaths."

Angie Keprios, right, project coordinator for Northern Dental Access Center, talks about community awareness of homelessness in Bemidji during a roundtable discussion. Photo courtesy of the Bemidji Pioneer.

Although there are a number of shelters in Beltrami County that people can access overnight, if you're without a warm place to go during the day, there aren't as many options. Some people seek shelter in public spaces such as the library. NMF wanted to find a way to support area organizations to increase capacity so that it may be possible for them to provide shelter during daylight hours.

NMF opened a grant opportunity for these area organizations to apply for funding to not only offer daytime shelter, but to address other priorities that came out of the discussions that were had at the coalition meetings. Those priorities were:

  1. Increase the number of emergency shelter beds available
  2. Open a daytime shelter
  3. Provide more training for shelter staff and volunteer 

Evergreen Youth & Family Services, The Nameless Coalition, Peoples Church, and Face It Together were the organizations selected to receive grant funding to add capacity to their operations.

Peoples Church will operate a daytime shelter on a schedule that compliments when the library is closed. A drop-in center is a place for the homeless to get warm, interact with people, get a meal, and connect to the services they need to get into stable housing.

Evergreen will provide a shelter bed for forty (40) nights for “unaccompanied youth” or youth who just show up looking for help. The organization lost a large sum of funding for youth that are not placed by social or correctional services, this funding will help to fill that gap.

The Nameless Coalition will continue operations at the The Wolfe shelter and invest in vital training for staff. The shelter manager and four employed assistants will all receive training.

Face It Together will operate a daytime center serving the homeless population during their hours of operation. The homeless population can come in to get warm, but will also be able to access the services that Face It Together provides. Face It Together provides peer to peer coaching for alcohol and drug abuse. The funding would also provide food, supplies, and equipment for the operation of the daytime center.

NMF continues to facilitate meetings with the coalition of area organizations on a monthly basis.

Panel speakers talk about their lived experiences with homelessness.
On Saturday, January 12th, Homes for All hosted a legislative kickoff event at Calvary Lutheran Church in Bemidji. The majority of the event was an opportunity for the community to hear from individuals who have experienced homelessness due to many different circumstances and unforeseen life changes. "We heard stories of people who continually got knocked down—either by loss of job, addiction, childhood poverty, mental illness or things that were out of their control—but got back up" said Sandy Hennum from Village of Hope.

Homes for All also presented their legislative agenda for the 2019 session. They will be advocating for solutions that can aid with homelessness, home insecurity, and affordable housing. You can preview their legislative agenda via this link.

If you're interested in getting involved with the coalition working on a rapid response to homelessness in Beltrami County, contact Cory Boushee, NMF program officer for community impact.


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