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Published December 21 2010

Day remembers homeless deaths

Local advocates say they know the temporary snow sculpture created outside the Fargo Civic Center this week isn’t enough to end homelessness.

But they hope the display’s fluid lines and striking tension are enough to spark awareness about the problem in the community.

Today is Homeless Memorial Day in Fargo-Moorhead – a time to remember those who died due to homeless-related circumstances in 2010 and those who still have no place to call home.

Statewide, 21 people died from homelessness this year – including 14 from Fargo, according to the North Dakota Coalition for Homeless People.

“When we talk about 21 deaths, it’s important not to see the number – but the lives that those numbers represent,” coalition director Michael Carbone said. “These are people who had histories, people who had names, people who had faces, people who had futures cut short.”

The statewide figure is nearly double last year’s death toll of 11. But the numbers could be off because they’re difficult to track, homeless advocates said.

“It’s important to remember these people,” Carbone said. “If they couldn’t be remembered in life, let’s remember them in death.”

To do that, local artists built a temporary memorial sculpture over the weekend using 700 cubic feet of snow.

Stevie Famulari, Kyle Slivnik and Michael VanBeek spent more than 150 hours creating the display off Fourth Street North near the Fargo Civic Center.

The abstract design is meant to serve as a stark memorial and a temporary shelter for those who attend a vigil there tonight.

“This is a really small piece of the puzzle,” Slivnik said. “It’s not meant to save the homeless; it’s meant to raise awareness. I’m really hoping what we do can do that.”

Laurie Baker, executive director of the FM Coalition for Homeless Persons, said a community approach is needed to address homelessness and prevent future deaths, especially with more harsh winter months ahead.

All Fargo-Moorhead area shelters are at capacity, and some have been at capacity for several months, Baker said.

She said adding more temporary shelter space isn’t the answer.

Success generally can come from “housing first” programs such as Cooper House in Fargo that provide people with housing until they’re back on their feet, Baker said.

“The coalition really sees us as needing a community solution and needing some creative thinking on the part of all of us,” Baker said. “We all need to think about it together.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541


If you go

Online

North Dakota Coalition for Homeless People: www.ndhomelesscoalition.org

FM Coalition for Homeless Persons: www.fmhomeless.org