Fixing the Homeless Problem In Bemidji - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Fixing the Homeless Problem In Bemidji

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  Bemidji and the surrounding area are facing a major, growing problem. A new study shows there are now nearly 700 homeless people in the area. And that number has grown 170-percent since 2009.

  It’s now spurred an effort to study the possibility of more low income housing and a facility for chronic alcoholics.

Homeless Man: “I’m here the majority of the time. That’s cool.”

Homeless Man: “One of those marriage and divorce violin stories.”

Reporter: “No place to stay?”

Man: “In the shadows.”

  During the past year, 2 homeless people died in Bemidji  accidents, where alcohol was involved. One person was struck by a car, another drowned in the lake.

Pastor Bob Kelly, People Church Shelter: “It doesn’t bring in hordes of tourists, when 2 little kids on bikes find somebody drowned in 6-inches of water in Lake Bemidji.”

  On any given night, the floor of the Peoples Church shelter here… is packed with people sleeping on mattresses.  It’s spurred organizers to start developing plans for low income housing.

Carol Priest, Peoples Church Shelter: “The supportive housing that we’re looking at, part of it would be for homeless, single adults. But, another part of it would be for homeless, chronic inebriates. Those are people that take up a tremendous amount of police time.”

Tim Mastin, Bemidji Police Chief: “There’s about 37 people that we have continued contact with. Within those 37 people we have a little over 16-hundred calls for service.”

  Plus, there are a number of other expenses connected with the homeless for the City and County, including trips to hospital emergency rooms, and repeated trips to detox centers.

Tim Flathers, Headwaters Regional Development: “That’s exactly right. We can serve people better and do it more efficiently than what we’re doing right now. That’s the win, win in the whole thing.”

   Organizers are now waiting for housing study proposals to consider possible options to battle the homeless problem in and around Bemidji.

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