The Burleigh County Housing Authority is one step closer to providing 40 beds for the homeless via a potential permanent supportive housing structure to be constructed on South 11th Street in Bismarck.

The city commission approved BCHA’s request to apply for a payment in lieu of a property tax incentive Tuesday night and called for a public hearing.

BCHA is also seeking tax credits, National Housing Trust Funds and North Dakota Housing Incentive Funds to help fund the Edwinton Place project.

Sex offenders and "certain felons" will not be allowed to live in the facility.

“We will provide project-based vouchers for tenants, which involves federal funding, so we will not be able to house sex offenders or certain felons," said Dwight Barden, executive director of BCHA.   

Edwinton Place will provide permanent housing. It is not a shelter. Supportive services will be available, but tenants will not be required to use them.

“The important thing is it’s a Housing First model," Barden said. "Once you get the individuals housed, it might be easier to get them to buy into the services we will have available to them.”

BCHA plans to work with the Dakota Foundation, West Central Human Services and Community Options.

“The homeless population deals with mental illness and addictions, so we will work with those agencies to provide services for that," Barden said. "If someone wants to come in and set up an AA meeting, they’re more than welcome to do that. We will also work with agencies to provide employment help.”

The first year study of the Cooper House, a similar facility located in Fargo, showed savings to the community in police and health care services of more than $204,000.

“The Edwinton Place is going to be a great asset to the community,” said Jeannie Messall, director of the Missouri Valley Coalition for Homeless People. "It's going to take some of the pressure off of law enforcement and the hospitals and it will provide a stable environment, and a stable house, for those who are homeless."

Last month, the Ruth Meiers Hospitality House announced plans to sell and close the men's emergency shelter, 305 N. 23rd St., due to financial difficulties.

The overnight housing for single men is the only permanent facility of its kind in the area, and the possibility of closure has set off alarms for homeless people and advocates who rely upon it.

As of Thursday, the building remains for sale and no final closing date has been set.

“We (the city) have not contributed financially to try and solve our homeless situation in past years, and this is one way for the city and the county and the school district to have skin in the game and make a real difference," said Commissioner Nancy Guy. “And I know our police department supports it wholeheartedly.”

The Burleigh County Commission and Bismarck Public School District are also "very supportive" of the Edwinton Place project, Barden said. There have been no complaints from neighboring residents or businesses.

The public hearing will take place at 5:15 p.m. Sept. 26 in the Tom Baker Meeting Room of the City/County Office Building.

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