- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 4, 2015

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) - A program in Williston that for the past two winters helped temporarily homeless men with shelter won’t operate this winter.

The organizers of Project Heat told the Williston Herald (https://bit.ly/1Mc4Z6f ) the oil industry slowdown combined with falling rents and more available housing in the oil patch hub have reduced the need for the service.

Project Heat was aimed at single men who were seeking jobs or having trouble finding housing despite earning a regular paycheck. The Salvation Army and several Williston-area churches organized it in 2013 with the help of numerous volunteers.

A local crew camp provided 10 beds for the program. Pastor Chris Swarthout at New Hope Church said around 75 to 100 men stayed in the space.

Swarthout said the effort began when hotel and rental rates were “just ridiculous.” Rates have fallen as more housing has come online.

Other factors that contributed to closing the program this year include how much time it took to run, and poor behavior by a few residents. Joshua Stansbury of the Williston Salvation Army said some men had a “sense of entitlement” last year.

The original setup of Project Heat, Stansbury said, was for men to have two weeks to stay with an expectation to look for work and permanent housing. They also had a strict set of guidelines, including lights out at 10 p.m. and a 5 a.m. wakeup call.

“Some people signed the rules but they didn’t follow the rules,” Stansbury said. “It was just those couple that make the difference, and can spoil the whole thing.”

Stansbury said Project Heat might return, depending on future needs and funding. He and Swarthout said there are still people in Williston in need of permanent housing, despite the closure of the program. The Salvation Army will continue to help those in need, Stansbury said.

“Our overall goal is to help people and keep people safe,” Stansbury said. “We won’t have Project Heat this year, but we still are resourceful.”

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Information from: Williston Herald, https://www.willistonherald.com

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