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Mayor wants ND guard armory open for homeless

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) — Williston’s mayor wants to use the National Guard armory in the city as a temporary shelter for the homeless.

Ward Koeser tells the Williston Herald that he plans to ask the City Commission on Tuesday to consider the plan.

North Dakota to the nation’s No. 2 oil producer behind Texas. Ninety percent of drilling activity in the state is within a 70-mile radius of Williston, which census figures show is the fastest-growing city of its size in the country. The bulk of the city’s residents work in oil-related jobs.

“In years past, most of homeless left the city during the winter,” Koeser said. “But in the last couple of years, there are more people who are trying to find work and are not prepared, with no place to live, and find themselves on the street in life-threatening temperatures.”

Koeser said he has talked with Gov. Jack Dalrymple, state agencies and members of the North Dakota National Guard about the option of using the armory to house the homeless.

Area church groups have pushed the idea of providing emergency housing for the growing number of homeless people in the oil boom town, calling their effort Project Heat.

Koeser said the city could potentially use the armory if the church groups agree and if armed security at the facility is available. The cost of hiring police or private security, at an estimated $45 per hour, could be paid for by Project Heat, he said.

The mayor said churches would be responsible for checking the people in and out of the facility, along with providing comfort at the shelter.

The armory presents a good location for a shelter since it has limited effects on neighbors, Koeser said. The mayor said plans to ask the commission to allow the churches to house the homeless when the National Guard hosts events at the armory.


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