Housing a concern for transients in bitter cold weather

Staff Writer
Devils Lake Journal
Devils Lake Mayor Dick Johnson thanks Myron Asleson for over 38 years of service to the city of Devils Lake. Asleson retired from the Public Ways/Street Supervisor position at a ceremony held at the city shop on Dec. 27. His last day on the job was Dec. 29.

Add Devils Lake to the list of cities in the country concerned about housing for people passing through as temperatures plummet.

“We can’t let them freeze,” Devils Lake’s director of the Law Enforcement Center, Rob Johnson, told the city commissioners at Monday’s meeting.

Transients come into town in various ways and once they are here where can they go during business hours especially when the temperatures outside are below zero?

The community’s homeless shelter is available for most, providing a meal and a place to sleep, but it is not open during the day. They also have rules about alcohol and drug use.

Johnson said this winter, so far, there have been five people who have needed a place to stay indoors and they have allowed them to use the lobby area of the Law Enforcement Center, however, when personnel come to work in the morning and find a person sleeping on the floor of the lobby, that individual has to be awakened and asked to leave. Where do they go then?

Johnson said he asked these questions of the commission to begin a dialogue about the need. The mayor, Dick Johnson, suggested talking with motel owners in the city to find alternative solutions for those who find themselves stranded in town during the severe cold weather. The possibility of paying someone from the law enforcement community, when needed, to supervise volunteers at places like the homeless shelter was also discussed. A plan is needed to deal with the issue added Police Chief Joe Knowski. The consensus of opinion was that something needs to be in place when the need arises.

Other business

The commission voted to follow the recommendation from the Renaissance Zone Authority to approve a project for renovation of the east half of the property located at 407 4th St. NE in downtown Devils Lake.

Knowski outlined his plan for restructuring the Devils Lake Police force.

Ordinance No. 951, on mandatory alcohol server training, which was to have had its first reading was set aside and the city’s attorney will review the present ordinance, making some changes to the wording of the ordinance for the first reading at the next city commission meeting.

Funds for the Lake Region Heritage Center were approved.

Payment for the fishing pier at Henegar Landing was approved, minus a portion reserved until the project is completed.

A resolution for creating a Downtown Improvement District was approved ordering a preliminary report.

The next regular meeting of the Devils Lake City Commission will take place on Tuesday, Jan. 16 at 5:30 p.m.