MINOT — Ward County Commissioners approved using the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to allow the short-term care and assessment center Youthworks to buy property for its youth to live in.
On Monday, Emily Yanish, program manager for Youthworks, told the commissioners that the center has two plans of action for where to place youth, pursuant to the new Department of Human Services administrative rule, which will require that youth with criminal charges be separated from other youth.
“There is a property in southeast Minot,” said Yanish. “The property is already set up in a manner that would work for the short-term care and assessment center that would work for population separations. There would not be significant renovation costs.”
The other option is to buy the Trinity guest home, which Trinity Hospital does not plan to vacate until 12 months from now. Yanish said that Youthworks could buy the first property, and the guest home later, when it is ready. She also said that the first property may be suitable as a permanent location.
The owner of the first property is currently asking for $350,000, but Youthworks is waiting on the appraisal to make an offer.
Youthworks executive director Melanie Heitkamp said that most of the youth in the center have a job, so having a place near Walmart would be a good option according to her.
“It sounds like there could be two steps in this decision today,” said Commissioner Shelley Weppler. “The step to get them into the housing that’s going to solve our current need. And perhaps another discussion in 9-12 months which is still within the time frame of our ARPA dollars, for the purchase of a home that they may be looking at.”
Chairman Jim Rostad said that he trusts Youthworks in that decision due to its establishment since the 1980s.
The final motion was to grant funds for Youthworks purchase the property for $350,000 with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that no youth from Ward County would be turned away, and that if Youthworks decided to sell the property and move, the funds would be returned to the county within 5 years.
“I’m glad that Youthworks has stepped up and wants to do this,” said Commissioner John Fjeldahl. “But there’s no guarantee they’ll be here. We’ve been through Lutheran Social Services. I don’t know what the future holds here, but if our concern is to be responsible to the community, then we should know the activities and programs and all the things that happen in this facility. Where do the people of Ward County have a say in this?”
Heitkamp responded saying that while the state oversees the shelter care (a 7-day placement for Children in Need of Protection and Services), the county would oversee the attendant care, which is a 48-hour placement for youth picked up by law-enforcement.
“The improved outcomes that you’ll have for young people and as they transition into independence be contributing members of society,” Yanish responded. “You’ll be reducing costs and criminal activity hospitalizations, public services, those sorts of things. But I don’t know that there’s any formal MOU or relationship or funding for that homeless young adult program.”
The motion passed with one commissioner voting no. The commissioners unanimously voted to set aside $100,000 as a placeholder.