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'Homelessness 101' -- targeting services, dispelling conventional wisdom

The Missouri Valley Coalition for Homeless People held a conference in Bismarck designed for agencies that offer services to the homeless population.

The conference was called “Homelessness 101.” The Coalition’s Cha Duggin says it’s a chance for the providers to know what services are out there – and how they can better coordinate their efforts. Duggin says the conference also identified gaps in the services.

"One would be the opportunity for a shelter for folks who might be under the influence of something, whether it be drugs or alcohol," said Duggin. "They need an opportunity to have a safe place for detox, a safe place to be sheltered. Right now, that burden is falling heavily on law enforcement."

Duggin says that’s something the Coalition and other community groups are addressing.

Duggin also says the stereotype that many people who are homeless are that way because they’re lazy and don’t want to work is wrong.

"Eighty percent of people who actually experience homelessness manage to work their way out of it without even seeking services," said Duggin. "Two percent of people who are homeless actually experience it for the long term -- what we call chronic homelessness. And the other nearly 20 percent do seek services."

Duggin says the key is to get the word out to that 20 percent – that there are services available for them.

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