Public simulation in Williston demonstrates western ND’s poverty problems

Courtesy: MGN Online

WILLISTON, N.D. - More than 78,000 people in North Dakota are living in poverty. That's 10 percent of the total population, which is lower than the national average, but Community Action Partnership of North Dakota employees say that there are likely many more people living in poverty, like situations within the state who are technically not in poverty. This creates barriers when trying to get federal and state assistance.

Wednesday, the organization held a public poverty simulation in Williston, where people went through what life might be like for a family or individual considered to be in poverty, something that's become increasingly difficult for people in Western North Dakota.

The guidelines say a family of four must make below $32,000, and wages are high in Western North Dakota. Someone living in a poverty-like situation might not be considered to be in poverty based on their income, so they can’t qualify for programs, services and housing.

"They're struggling, but they can't get any help. They have high housing costs, high transportation costs, but those aren't taken into account. We just have to look at gross income. So, it is very difficult to serve individuals and qualify, more to qualify individuals here in Western North Dakota,” said Deeann Long Client Service Director for Community Action Partnership.

Long said when someone doesn’t qualify, the agency offers referrals and knowledge of local community programs, and they've tried for many years to get legislators to address these issues, but it hasn't worked.

Long added that in their combined Dickinson and Williston offices, they serve around 3,000 people a year.