Now, more than ever, help is needed, not just for the literal homeless but for the many in the Commonwealth who are also at risk of becoming homeless.
On Saipan alone, there are about 672 homeless individuals (a combination of those who are literally homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless)—and they are either living on the streets, in dilapidated housing, or live by the beach, where it is unsafe, according to Jacob Muna, an environmental officer with the Northern Marianas Housing Corp.
Speaking at the Rotary Club of Saipan meeting at the Hyatt Regency Saipan’s Giovanni Restaurant, Muña said the Commonwealth has very limited resources when it comes to assisting the homeless.
“Right now, the CNMI does not have emergency shelters for the homeless,” he said.
By participating in an upcoming homeless count in the CNMI, Muna said this could help establish ways to assist the homeless and at-risk homeless here in the CNMI.
The count is one of the requirements needed for the Commonwealth to avail of the “continuum of care” grant, a program provided by Housing and Urban Development to aid in combating homelessness.
“With the ‘continuum of care’ grant that we’re applying for, there is a component to assist people in finding jobs to make them self-reliant,” said Muña.
In a separate interview, Muña pointed out that there are only a few agencies that assist the homeless of the CNMI. Of the few, Karidat Social Services is the only agency that offers opportunities for the homeless but even then, space is limited due to the lack of funding.
Karidat is allocated roughly $70,000 to assist the homeless in the CNMI.
“We do have a homeless program currently in place through HUD that provides assistance for up to 10 months—the Emergency Solutions grant, which the sub-recipient is Karidat Social Services. This grant basically helps individuals who are literally homeless or are at risk of being homeless,” he said.
At the end of 10 months, recipients are required to provide a plan to one’s case management worker about what you’re going to do to improve your life such as jobs, re-enrolling in school, etc.
“The success rate for that program is about 90 percent. At the end of the program, the families or the individuals either have found a job and are currently staying in their provided apartment or their new apartment, or were transferred to the Section 8 program under NMHC,” Muña said.
It is hoped that the upcoming count will be a stepping-stone for more opportunities for the homeless in the Commonwealth.
The count will take place on Jan. 27, 2018.