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Heidi Shaffer, Published December 26 2010

Retired police officer to work with Fargo's homeless

A Fargo police officer who retired his badge in November will continue his work on the issue of homelessness through a new part-time position.

Scott Stenerson, a 20-year police veteran, will fill the city’s new homeless liaison position at the start of the year.

Stenerson, 56, gained experience on the issues of homelessness during his nine years as a downtown resource officer.

Many people experiencing homelessness frequent downtown Fargo because of the services available, Stenerson said. His job helped him form relationships between that population and the resources available to them, he said.

Stenerson’s new position will allow him to continue those connections and the Fargo police’s collaboration with area social services to combat homelessness, said Chief Keith Ternes.

Michael Carbone, executive director of the North Dakota Coalition for Homeless People, said he uses Stenerson as an example of how law enforcement can be part of the solution for homelessness.

“One of the most important things Scott can do is help change the perception – or maybe even reality – that there is an adversarial relationship between law enforcement and people experiencing homelessness,” Carbone said.

The civilian position will be funded on an annual basis through a $20,000 federal Community Development Block Grant aimed at helping those with low to moderate income.

Homeless rates in the metro have almost doubled over the past seven years. In 2003, 393 homeless individuals lived in Fargo-Moorhead on a given day. In 2009, that number jumped to 763, according to a study conducted every three years by Minnesota-based Wilder Research.

Finding permanent housing is one of the most effective ways to make a long-term impact on homelessness, Stenerson said.

Part of Stenerson’s duties will include continuing his involvement in Fargo’s Cooper House, a long-term housing facility for the chronically homeless.

“I hope … that in some small way my work as a police liaison with the homeless community might lighten the workload of the officers I worked with on the street,” Stenerson said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heidi Shaffer at (701) 241-5511