Funding for North Dakota Homeless Shelters Has Not Been Cut, It’s Been Made Discretionary


Thomas DeGraw is seen on his bunk bed at the New Life Center in north Fargo. David Samson / The Forum

Over the past couple of weeks we’ve been seeing reports about supposed “cuts” to programs like Meals on Wheels and, most recently, homeless shelters.

Except these reports often aren’t accurate. Or, at the very least, lack the nuance they deserve. For instance, the budget amendment which supposedly cut funding for the Meals on Wheels program in reality gave the program a slight increase in funding.

The issue with grants for homeless shelters is also being reported inaccurately, probably because it’s mostly based on the public pronouncements of April Fairfield, a former statewide candidate for the Democrats who is now the executive director of the North Dakota Coalition for Homeless People, and Erin Prochnow of the Fargo-Moorhead YWCA who also just happens to be Senator Heidi Heitkamp’s niece.

From Fairfield and Prochnow straight into a press conference from Democrats and then official Democratic party social media messaging messaging.

It almost seems coordinated.

Anyway, the truth is that the homeless shelter grants aren’t being cut, but they are being made discretionary. In fact, here’s the document showing the move, which takes homeless shelter grants (along with some other budget line items) and puts them into a discretionary fund:

If you wanted to you could be critical of lawmakers moving to make this funding discretionary. I guess you could even say that, by not mandating the spending, they’re putting it at risk. Those in the administration of Governor Doug Burgum who are in charge of the grants could choose to spend the money elsewhere, after all.

That would be fair criticism, though I’d point out that it’s exactly this sort of budget flexibility that Burgum campaigned on and asked for from lawmakers.

But calling this move a simple cut is not accurate.

The serious matters of our state budget, particularly when it comes to emotional areas like funding to assist seniors or the homeless, deserves more nuance than we get from media reports which regurgitate seemingly partisan talking points.