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Group raises awareness for hidden homelessness, reveal number of homeless children in Bismarck schools

Published: Nov. 21, 2021 at 3:33 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Just a week before many people spend time with their families for the Thanksgiving holiday, the Missouri Valley Homeless Coalition demonstrated an issue they see in Bismarck: hidden homelessness.

You might not see homeless individuals as you walk down the street, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Last school year, 415 children in Bismarck schools were homeless and advocates say the pandemic posed additional challenges with connecting with students and getting them assistance.

This weekend, a group gathered on the steps of the State Capitol to raise awareness of the issue.

“I have experienced homelessness since living here. And I want to say these programs do definitely help,” said Woodrow Star, youth action board member.

Students that don’t have a home or are in transition is not a new concern. The prior school year, 524 youth in Bismarck schools were homeless.

“What we have here in the Midwest is called the hidden homeless. So, we don’t see necessarily adults and youth out on the streets sleeping in sleeping bags. But they are hidden. They are staying in maybe shelters, or they might be staying in campgrounds and those kinds of places,” said Sherrice Roness, member of Missouri Valley Homeless Coalition and BPS Homeless Liaison.

At 4:15 p.m., the group linked arms. They stood for four minutes and fifteen seconds to represent the homeless children.

“Think about the homeless youth that are out there. They might not have the same clothing you have on. They might be freezing,” said Roness to the group.

“Every person deserves food on their plate and a roof over their head. Unfortunately, far too many youths experience hunger and homelessness,” said Bismarck mayor Steve Bakken.

Advocates ask others to reach out to local agencies and contact their child’s school if reliable resources are a concern.

“Once a child is identified, we kind of wrap our arms around them and provide services for them, so they can have a free and stable education just like any other child,” said Roness.

This fall, a $1.9 million grant was awarded to the Missouri Valley Homeless Coalition to help youth in need.

Almost three months into this school year, 220 kids have already been identified as homeless.

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