- Associated Press - Monday, November 9, 2015

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) - The homeless population in the Williston region is dwindling, though the number of people living without adequate shelter is still troubling, a state advocacy group says.

The North Dakota Coalition for Homeless People estimates 370 homeless in the oil patch counties of Williams, McKenzie and Divide, down from the peak of 624 in 2013.

Unlike other areas where mental illness and addiction are key contributors to homelessness, most homeless in the Williston area say they arrived in search of work. Oil activity in the region has dropped off as crude prices have declined.

Organizers recently announced that the Project Heat program in Williston that for the past two winters provided temporary shelter for homeless men won’t operate this winter due to a reduced need. 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.

The number of homeless is still a concern, Coalition Executive Director Michael Carbone told the Williston Herald (http://bit.ly/1RtnWVB ). Before the oil boom, the number of homeless in Williston was estimated to be in the single digits.

“It used to be we had a total homeless population of three, four, or five,” Carbone said. “At 370, that’s just a huge number.”

There is no homeless shelter in Williston or the surrounding area. Of the homeless counted this year, 43 percent were living in a car or camper; 15 percent were staying in a structure such as a storage unit, ice house or the entryway of a business; and nearly 30 percent said they were living outside.

“It’s gone down but it’s still through the roof,” Carbone said.

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

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