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Bismarck breaks ground on housing for chronically homeless

August 28, 2018

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Construction has begun on a Bismarck facility that will provide stable housing to the chronically homeless, including people with mental illnesses, physical disabilities or chemical addictions.

The four-story Edwinton Place Apartments building is expected to be completed next fall, the Bismarck Tribune reported .

“There isn’t a single person here ... who wakes up in the morning and chooses to become homeless,” said Jolene Kline, executive director of the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency. “It’s caused by a variety of issues ... some circumstance that changes the lives of those individuals and makes them a homeless person.”

The $10.3 million project will utilize an approach called Housing First, which allows access to permanent housing without prerequisites beyond those of a typical renter. The approach views housing as the foundation for life improvement.

The apartments will offer 40 units of stable housing, as well as supportive services, to those experiencing long-term homelessness within the community.

“It’s an empowerment model where the individual chooses when, and if, they engage in supportive services,” said CEO Dan Madler of Beyond Shelter Inc., the building’s developer. “So there’s that buy-in, that empowerment.”

Chronically homeless people often use emergency services, which can cost communities up to $50,000 annually per person, according to Kline. Providing those individuals with immediate housing access could save the community up to 40 percent of that cost.

“Affordable housing with permanent supportive services helps guarantee successful releases from prisons,” Kline said. “It helps those individuals transition back into a community instead of discharging them into homelessness. It provides a stable platform for recovery from addiction. It reduces visits to the emergency rooms. It reduces police calls.”

Bismarck Mayor Steven Bakken said Monday that the housing project is “a great first step, and a great foothold, for what we’re going to grow in the community.”

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com

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