- Created: Wednesday, 05 April 2017 12:22
Homelessness is often hidden. On the White Earth Reservation — where one-third of the population is homeless — people without a place to call home don’t sleep on sidewalks or in abandoned vehicles.
“We tend to not kick our people out on the street,” says Ben Bement, Director of Human Services for the White Earth Nation. Instead of going outside, people crowd together in homes meant for far fewer residents.
“It’s not uncommon in White Earth to find a three-bedroom house with about 18 people living in there,” Bement says. “And there are a lot of problems associated with overcrowding. One in three of our kids living in a homeless situation are subject to domestic violence, and one in five are subject to sexual violence.”
According to Dawn Sherk, Economic Development Planning Coordinator for the White Earth Nation, many homeless community members find shelter with relatives. “You find hidden homelessness on a lot of reservations because folks are camping on the couch at their sister’s mother’s aunt’s place,” Sherk says.
Sherk and Bement, along with four other members of the White Earth Nation (pictured above), formed a team to address homelessness in their community as part of MHP’s first-ever Native Communities Development Institute, an 18-month peer-to-peer learning program focused on building project management and community development skills. The team chose to build a supportive housing complex with a “housing first” approach.