HUD trying to help end homelessness in Northeastern Minnesota

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The US department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is giving a three-year grant, addressing rural homelessness in Northeastern MN. The Northeast Minnesota Continuum of Care is coordinating the homelessness response in six different counties. These counties are Aitkin, Carlton, Cook, Itasca, Koochiching and Lake county. Also several reservations from the areas of Bois Forte, Fond du Lac, Leech Lake, and Grand Portage will receive funds.

HUD’s Minnesota Field Office Director Michele Smith, visited Grand Rapids to talk about rural homelessness. “There’s unique challenges to addressing homelessness in rural communities. There’s problems with lack of infrastructure, lack of jobs, lack of affordable housing, the unique transportation challenges in rural communities. And, of course, up here in northern Minnesota, we have the never ending winters that make things even more complicated.” Smith said.

The federal funds from HUD, include a check worth over a quarter of a million dollars. The money will go towards KOOTASCA Community Action’s efforts to ending rural homelessness. Rozanne Casey, the Crisis Services Director of KOOTASCA Community Action talked about the services helping to end rural homelessness. “Wrapping the client in supportive services is often the key to keeping them housed once they actually have a place to live. It’s all of the things that we don’t ever think about every day. We just go about our daily lives. And a lot of times these clients can’t do that because of their disabilities or other issues.” Casey said.

With HUD’s federal grants and vouchers, KOOTASCA Community Action says rural communities will help create stable housing. According to HUD, rural communities will see an improvement of overall quality of life after stable housing. Dustin Witkofsky, the Program Director of Grace House of Itasca County talked about why these funds are needed. “It’s not just a check, it’s not just a lump sum of money it’s a second chance, it’s a hand to grab on to and to get back something you lost. It’s a really cool thing to happen and the support it’s going to provide in the future is phenomenal.” Witkofsky said.

According to Casey, people experiencing homelessness end up being homeless on average of six to seven times before they are able to find permanent housing. “In Itasca County, we don’t have this kind of building right now yet for KOOTASCA but we will be able to have these services and this grant will provide us the ability to ramp up those services to serve clients in Itasca County.” Casey said.

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