Fargo-Moorhead Coalition to End Homelessness Releases 2022 State of Homelessness Report

The Fargo-Moorhead Coalition to End Homelessness (FM Coalition) released its annual report on the state of homelessness in the Fargo-Moorhead Metro Area, which encompasses Cass County, North Dakota, and Clay County, Minnesota. The report provides a demographic overview of people experiencing homelessness in the region, summarizes the outcomes of homelessness programs, and gives context on the community’s housing and health needs. Notably, the report examines the stark racial inequities in the Fargo-Moorhead region, where Black and Indigenous people are significantly more likely to experience homelessness than their white counterparts.

“The Fargo Moorhead Coalition to End Homelessness utilizes the annual State of Homelessness Report to inform policy advocacy, education planning, and collaboration efforts for our 70+ partner agencies,” said Alexa Dixson-Griggs, executive director of the FM Coalition. “This year’s report shows the work that needs to be done surrounding inequities within our system as well as highlights the trends we are seeing with youth and families with youth. Our goals with this report are to help inform our community and policy makers about the need for increased resources for youth & families with youth such as attainable housing, access to positive adult supports, and skill-building services. We also hope to show the impacts of systemic racism on those experiencing homelessness and advocate for community guided solutions to close the racial disparity gaps for Black people, Indigenous people, and other people of color in the FM Metro Area.”

Based on Point-in-Time count data, the report finds that 957 people experienced homelessness on any given night in 2021 in the Fargo-Moorhead region, which has a total population of nearly 244,000 people. The report shows that 3,554 people received homeless services either in Cass County or Clay County over the course of the year, though this number may represent an overcount, as some people may have received services in both counties. Twenty-one percent of those receiving services were under the age of 18, and 14% were adults over the age of 55.

The report finds that people of color are significantly overrepresented in the region’s homeless population. While 87% of the Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan area identifies as white, only 51% of people experiencing homelessness are white. Meanwhile, 20% of people experiencing homelessness identify as Black, and 19% identify as American Indian. Although Latinos account for only 3.2% of Fargo’s population and 4.6% of Moorhead’s population, they account for 10% of people experiencing homelessness in the region. These racial disparities are even greater for families with children: people of color constitute 60% of all families experiencing homelessness in Fargo-Moorhead.

The West Central Minnesota Continuum of Care conducted an Equity Review in 2020 that found that people of color were less likely to enter transitional or permanent housing from homelessness but that race played little role in shelter system entry or whether someone had a positive or negative leave from a homelessness program. The 2021 Equity Review found that 51% of people entering permanent housing in West Central, MN, are white, 14% are Black, 27% are Native American, and 8% identify with another race. Fifty-four percent of people entering crisis housing are white, 16% are Black, 20% are American Indian, and 10% identify with another race. These demographic data reflect the region’s homeless population overall:  60% of people experiencing homelessness in West Central, MN, are white, 12% are Black, 17% are American Indian, and 11% identify with another race. Fifty-two percent of people returning to homelessness are white, 15% are Black, 25% are Native American, and 8% identify with another race. Despite stark racial disparities in the overall homeless population, the data on shelter system entry show that programs are reaching people of all racial backgrounds in proportion to the demographic makeup of people experiencing homelessness. 

The report highlights the intersection between homelessness, chronic health conditions, and other vulnerabilities. Forty-four percent of people experiencing homelessness in the region have been diagnosed with a chronic health condition, physical disability, or developmental disability. Across the region, 29% of individuals who began receiving homeless services in 2021 were survivors of domestic violence. These data, however, do not fully capture the impact of domestic violence on women experiencing homelessness, as the vast majority of women experiencing homelessness have experienced domestic violence at some point before receiving services, even if this is not the immediate reason why they enter into homelessness. Agency-specific data show the growing impact of domestic violence on people experiencing homelessness. The YWCA of Cass Clay – where 86% of clients sought services because of domestic violence – saw a 7% single-year rise in domestic violence calls, likely due to pandemic-related factors that have increased the risks of abusive relationships.

Data on previous living arrangements of people entering homelessness programs show that 11% of all clients – and 27% of families – were living independently in permanent housing, with or without subsidies, before they entered homelessness. The high rate of housing cost-burdens puts families in permanent housing just one unexpected expense away from being at risk of homelessness: 93% of renter households making less than $20,000 are housing cost-burdened.

The region’s Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) are effective at reaching people experiencing homelessness – Moorhead Public Housing reported that 68% of new admissions into its public housing units in 2021 were people exiting homelessness, and 100% of vouchers were administered to people exiting homelessness – but these resources do not meet the full scale of the need. Waitlists for Housing Choice Vouchers at Fargo Housing & Redevelopment Authority and Clay County HRA are both closed, and applicants currently on the waitlist can expect to wait at least two years to receive vouchers.

The report includes an overview of the region’s Coordinated Access, Referral, Entry & Stabilization (CARES) System and steps being taken to improve it. Among those exiting the system in 2021, 29% of clients made it to permanent destinations, 35% to temporary destinations, 4% to institutional settings, and 6% to other destinations. Four percent of clients were unsure or refused to answer the question, and data were not collected for 22% of clients. Outcomes were markedly more positive for families with children, of which 64% exited to permanent destinations. However, more people are entering into homelessness programs than exiting from them: while 2,374 individuals and families exited from the system in 2021, 2,824 entered it.

The 2022 State of Homelessness Report will advance the FM Coalition’s ongoing efforts to make homelessness rare, brief, and not repeated in the Fargo-Moorhead metro area. New homelessness data will strengthen the organization’s advocacy for (1) policy and resources to meet the community’s needs, (2) expansion of education and training programs, (3) development and implementation of successful strategies to resolve homelessness, (4) efforts to address systemic issues that intersect with homelessness such as racial and income inequality, and (5) partnerships at all levels across North Dakota and Minnesota.

The full report can be found here.