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Local program designed to address racial disparities in homelessness seeks applicants

The Northwest Continuum of Care, which operates through the Northwest Minnesota Foundation, is seeking applicants to join its Racial Equity Accountability Team. The group will be tasked with reviewing how homeless response systems can better address racial disparities.

Northwest Minnesota Foundation web art
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BEMIDJI -- The Northwest Continuum of Care is seeking applicants to join a new team tasked with making homeless programs more racially just.

The Continuum of Care operates through the Northwest Minnesota Foundation. There are 11 continuums of care throughout the state and each operates as a network of service providers that assist the homeless population.

In October, the Northwest Continuum of Care announced it was forming a Racial Equity Accountability Team. Once established, the team will be tasked with addressing racial disparities in the homeless response system.

According to the continuum's website, in 2020, nearly 72% of chronically homeless youth in northwest Minnesota were Indigenous. Additionally, households of color experience homelessness at a rate seven to eight times higher than their representation within the general population.

According to Margaret Krueger, the continuum's community impact program officer, the concept for the team originated in Hennepin County.

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"They wanted to establish a team of community leaders that looked at how the continuum of care assesses their clients and helps them access their services," Krueger said. "Not only reviewing that but doing so through a lens of racial justice and equity."

Krueger said there was great success in its first run and was then expanded to the seven metro county area.

"It's helped reshape their system, bring in new providers and establish new partnerships," Krueger said. "We know there are huge racial disparities going on, and our goal is to develop a system regionally that is racially just."

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The Northwest Continuum of Care is seeking up to 10 members for the team and is accepting applications until Dec. 29. Members will be paid $25 per hour and compensated for meeting costs, such as transportation and child care.

"We are centering on including the voices of Black, Indigenous, and people of color," Krueger said. "That is one of our main goals in who we're reaching and empowering. We also value people who can bring experience from working in the homeless response system or with social services in general."

Krueger said the continuum is also seeking applications from anybody who have had lived experience with homelessness or housing insecurity.

To apply, Krueger said those interested can visit the continuum's website, www.nwmf.org/resources/strategic-partnerships/nwcoc .

Matthew Liedke is a reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He is originally from International Falls and now resides in Bemidji. He's a 2009 graduate of Rainy River Community College and a 2012 graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead. At the Pioneer, he covers government, politics, health and economic development. He can be reached at (218) 333-9791 or by email at mliedke@bemidjipioneer.com.
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