This is the story of a town named Williston, North Dakota where you can find a job, but you might just find yourself homeless.
Williston is America’s newest oil boomtown with more than 6,000 job seekers coming from every corner of the country looking for work. Yet, oil companies and other developers haven’t been able to build housing fast enough. In the past year, only about 2,000 new units have been built, leaving many workers seriously out in the cold.
With dozens of job seekers arriving by the day, leaving fewer and fewer places for them live in, people are taking desperate measures. If they can’t find a vacant room at a nearby hotel, some are finding themselves sleeping in their cars or in sleeping bags on patches of grass along the main highway. Only a chosen few have snapped up cots in dormitories, an emergency shelters known as “Man Camps” that oil companies have built to house their workers.
Though living conditions may not be quite up to standards, some of these workers are lured into this way of life because of the high unemployment rate. With the security of doubling or tripling their wages, workers feel it’s compensation for the physical or mental turmoil it can make.
Many are pulling down six figure salaries, but have been forced to leave their families behind. One man lives in a white room cubicle of 160 square feet, room enough for a steel framed twin bed and a picture on the wall of his daughter. He has hopes of moving his family to the area and is waiting for an apartment suite at one of the local hotels, but it won’t be ready for occupancy until February. The rent—a whopping $6700.00 a month. The price you pay in Boomer town to keep your family together.
It was just this past July that a man named Matt was transferred from a Walmart store in Minnesota to the Walmart in Williston, more than doubling his salary. When he arrived, after realizing there was nowhere to live, he bought an RV and soon the store’s parking lot had become the closest thing to home he was going to see for quite some time.
Each day Matt is forced to buy something from his place of employment in order to justify his reason for staying there. Then at night he and his new neighbors bring out their lawn chairs, fire up the grill, drink down some beers and share their stories. Stories about hope and what they’ll do with all the money they’ll be making from the black gold.
“Some people look at us like we’re homeless,” he said. “But anyone who needs to can find us. We have a street address: its 4001 2nd Ave., Walmart.”
Though it doesn’t sound like there’s a recession going on in this modern gold rush town, somehow one can’t help but think of what sacrifices these people have had to make in order to have a job and put a roof over their family’s heads.
So please tell me, what do you think? Many of us may know someone who has been affected by this economic downturn. Perhaps it is a neighbor, a friend, or maybe a member of our own family. Doesn’t this make us feel grateful for the little things that we may take for granted while we’re busy taking care of the more important things in our lives?
If you enjoyed this post, I encourage you to follow by email for future posts!
Thank you for your many thoughts and kind comments everyone!
A big shout out to Kristen Lamb and all my new WANA classmates and friends. And a big thanks to all others that may grace my presence by visiting this post. Take care and make it a great day!
Pingback: Do You Use “Track Changes” in Word? (Betcha it’s your BFF after reading this…) | Jenny Hansen's Blog
Oh wow! I never knew. So very sad. Well written post, Karen.
Serena Dracis recently posted..Who Am I Following?
You know Serena I didn’t either. I knew there were jobs available but I had no idea about the housing problem. Thank you for your comment and compliment Serena. See you soon! 🙂
We face a similar issue here on the Alberta/Saskatchewan border. We were lucky enough to find a house within out price range, and the bank let us money. Otherwise we were looking at rent easily double what we pay for a mortage. $1600-2000 a month fora house. It’s a little bit cheaper than Fort McMurray however.
asrai devin recently posted..Interspiration #3
Oh Asrai, thank you for sharing that information. Wow, this kind of stuff is happening more than we all realize. I think rent is going up everywhere, but not like North Dakota or Fort McMurray. Thanks for stopping by Asrai! 🙂
Karen, it breaks my heart to hear about conditions like this. Especially that far North, the living conditions are going to be awful (if not downright dangerous) soon.
Hubby and I thank God every day that we’re healthy, employed and have a roof over our head. We have friends who have been out of work for YEARS.
Jenny Hansen recently posted..National Novelist Slack-A$$ Month
Oh Jenny I did not want to break your heart. But it is going to be burrrr freezing soon. The situations is just messed up. And I know what you’re talking about having friends that have been out of work, lost their houses, etc. Not a good thing at all. Yes we are thankful too and I sometimes think that reading about things like this makes us all the more grateful. Ya know what I mean? Thanks Jenny for dropping by! 🙂
I can’t imagine and I had no idea that was even happening. Where I live the situation is the complete opposite. Plenty of housing available, but no jobs. I am thankful that I have both. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.
Emma Burcart recently posted..Fun Friday: Award Time!
Well Emma, your situation sad to say is the norm. And anyone right now that has a job has a lot to be thankful for. Oh how we all would like to have a job and a place to live. Unfortunately, that just isn’t the case in Williston. Thank you Emma for dropping by and leaving a comment. See you soon! 🙂
Heartwrenching post, Karen. Reminds me also of the coal towns that sprang up in our history. Workers came from everywhere and lived in shabby housing made by their employers and paid double for everything at the company stores.
Sorry I was so busy I’m getting here late to read it. Considering the subjects you tend to blog about I’m guessing your fiction is the kind that cuts into the heart.
You never need to apologize Alicia. We’ve all been so very busy setting up blogs, twitter, etc. It’s a lot to take in at once, isn’t it? But I’m so happy you made it by and thank you so much for your comment! I guest you could say that the fiction I write is heartfelt, perhaps it does cut into the heart. I never thought about it like that. I like to write stories with universal themes, ones that most everyone will enjoy. Thus when I find subjects that I think are of interest, I try to share them with everyone on my blog. There’s a lot going on in our world. 🙂
I’m a big fan of the LITTLE HOUSE books. This makes me think of how Pa had to leave the family to make $ after natural disasters messed with the crops he planted on the prairies. Another example of history repeating itself, no?
Welcome Joanna! Thank you for your thoughts on this subject. How true. I had forgotten about Little House on the Prairie and the many challenges their family had to make. Good point! I guess that proves when we pull together as a family it can really make a difference. I am so glad you dropped by Joanna! Thank you again. 🙂
I don’t know how I missed this excellent post, but I’m glad Tim O’Brien included it in his first mashup. This just blows my mind that people are able to get a good paying job, but there’s not enough housing. $6700 in rent is outrageous. That reminds me of how sharks (I wanted to use another word, but need to be good) charge people $5.00 or more for a gallon of water after the Northridge earthquake in Calif.
It also reminded me of the depression era. And, how can we not think of illegal immigrants who come to the U.S. to work and leave their families behind but send them money.
Sally is right in pointing out how this scenario has a long-time history in America. And not just here, but other countries as well.
Lynn Kelley recently posted..Tis the Season For Blog Awards!
Lynn Kelley, didn’t Tim do a great job? I thought it was fantastic! (And that’s not because he mentioned little ‘ol me.) Well, it’s good old greed isn’t it Lynn? From the beginning of time, I would imagine that people have been taken advantage of when there is a lack of suppy and high demand sorry to say. But I have to admire the great lengths that one is willing to go through for the sake of family. And that to me is one of the definitions of true affection and love. Thank you Lynn for your input and support! 🙂 Oh and the blog love/award! Sooo cool Lynn!
I’m from the same area as Louise, so I won’t repeat what she’s already said. What amazes me with this story is how the human spirit looks for the positive in what can be a awful situation. From the sound of things, these people on the WalMart parking lot are forming a community. The ones sleeping where ever they can find a space — even on the side of the road — are to be admired for their dedication to providing for their families back home. It is impossibly hard and I would never want to have to go through it but I admire all those people who are sacrificing their comforts with hopes of making a better home.
I love your input Sheila! I am so glad you dropped by. We need your motivating spirit around here. Thanks for helping us focus on the positive. You’re right Sheila, they are forming a community of support much like we are! 🙂
Ft McMurray, AB has a similar problem. The oil industry has made that town explode population wise, but there’s not enough homes. so people scramble. And since this is very far north, it does get viciously cold. People who live there, rent out basement bedrooms for hundreds of dollars a night to business travellers to the town. Crazy. But as long as we are dependent on oil, or other natural resources, we are caught in these boom/bust cycles. It is also the largest population of Newfoundlanders outside of that Province.
it’s tough but shows what people will do for their families.
Louise Behiel recently posted..Book Lovers’ Buffet: Big Book Sale
Wow Louise, that’s an amazing story. See, it’s happening all over isn’t it? And with the bitter cold that’s just another added stress and basements aren’t known to be too warm. Keep that fire stoked this winter Louise! Thank you for your comment and support! 🙂
I think these guys are doing great!! Boom towns with people living in tents without their families so they can make a living–this has a long history in America. Thank goodness it can still be done.
SJ Driscoll recently posted..Transitioning From a Hobby to a Business
You bring out an interesting point Sally. Throughout history people have made great sacrifices for their families, or their lives for that matter. But it’s awefully cold during the winter months Sally and lying out on a patch of grass on the roadside is pretty tough. Burrr! Thanks for your viewpoint and all your support! 🙂
Craziness. Sadness. I know it’s not this simplistic but why can’t the people build their own houses? I mean, there’s land there, right? It would seem that if they’re planning on working there, they should buy a lot, build a house and bring their family there. Like others have said…tough choices.
Hey Shannon, that’s a commendable idea girl. But unfortunately it take so long to get permits these people have been literally living out in the cold. And in North Dakota, that’s COLD! Stacy Jensen left an interesting comment earlier. If the oil companies knew that people would be coming to the area to work, why hadn’t they made the preparations for housing? Hummm? Thank you so much Shannon for dropping by and for all your support and comments! 🙂
I once lived this way back in 1970. Me and my dog lived in my old compact car because the town I was working in charged three months wages for one month’s rent. Boom towns sure have their down side. My heart goes out to those people. They’ve had hard choices to make.
Prudence MacLeod recently posted..People Watching / The Waiting Room
You are a many faceted soul my dear. And what you lived through at the time was not easy to say the least. Good thing you had your dog, uh? Many people today are having to make tough choices and perhaps it has been a good learning curve as to what is really necessary. Our family or things? But this story is a little crazy. Thanks for your comment Pru. 🙂
This is heartbreaking. I’m glad they’re having the opportunity to make some money in these tough times, but no one and no family should be subject to this kind of sacrifice. Thank you for shining a light on their story, Karen.
Fabio Bueno recently posted..Featured Blog Of The Week – Angela Peart
Fabio, when I read about what was happening in North Dakota I couldn’t help but write this story. We are living in “Tough Times” as you pointed out and even though we all have had to make certain sacrifices during this long, drawn out economic downturn, many of us have NOT had to live through this. Thank you for your comment Fabio and thank you for all your support! 🙂
Wow. My heart goes out to those making such enormous sacrifices to put food on the table. I hope their families will be reunited soon.
Crazy times we’re living in.
Myndi Shafer recently posted..Quick Giggle: Shopping for Idiots
I’m with you Myndi. My heart also go out to those families. But I think if they had some of your “Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies” it would make them feel a whole lot better! 🙂
I don’t even know where to start. This is a complex issue and not to be treated lightly. People making 6 figure salaries but finding themselves scrambling for a place to stay—what is wrong with this world? And shame on those who charge close to seven grand a month for an apartment. But there are always sharks in the waters of opportunity (hah, I even managed to make a cliché).
Angela Orlowski-Peart recently posted..A Good Book Might Be The Best Gift This Holiday Season
The whole situation seems oxymoronic, doesn’t it? Aha! There’s those sharks again Angela. But your right! There always seems to be someone waiting for the opportunity to take advantage of a situation. People are living through tough times right now and we have a lot to be grateful for. Thanks Angela for your comment! 🙂
This story made me think back to John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath.” It may not be an “Okie” migration to California, but nevertheless, very similar. This story speaks volumes to the economic conditions we are facing in our country right now. People are so desperate to work they will endure hardships so unthinkable in order to provide for their families. Thank you for sharing this story with us.
Tim L O’Brien recently posted..Jimi Hendrix & Devil Dogs To The Rescue
Good connection, Tim. “The Grapes of Wrath” comes to mind. Not as intense, but still.
Fabio Bueno recently posted..Featured Blog Of The Week – Angela Peart
You got that right Tim! We are facing the worse economic conditions we’ve seen since the great depression. And frankly, I think this is a depression because when have we seen these things going on during a recession? There’s too many people suffering from this economic crisis. What surprises me is that no one wants to talk about it like it doesn’t exist. Thanks Tim for the metaphor! It was spot on my friend! 🙂
I’ve read about this situation before and am grateful you are sharing it as a large chunk of my subdivision is going to be used for oil and gas exploration. I have heard the term “man camp” but never seen any photos of what this could look like. I’m not excited about the environmental issues related to hydraulic fracturing, but understand the need for oil and gas (as I use it). No one ever seems to address why housing is not being built there. I mean oil companies, as I understand it, can gauge the time the production of the wells/area will last. Seems like they would have out of work builders moving in the area to build.
Stacy S. Jensen recently posted..Perfect Picture Books: Goodnight Moon
Wow, thank you for bring this up Stacy! How true. You would think that these oil companies would’ve realized the need for housing. But you know, when we’re talking about greed, do these big conglomerate companies really care about something as miniscule as people? I don’t know where you live, but I do know that they’re doing a lot of hydraulic fracturing in northern Utah. It’s causing quite an uproar. There’s much that we are never told about, eh? 🙂
I can’t imagine! But you have to give the Wal-mart manager credit for his ingenuity! Not to mention, the daily grocery run is very convenient. 🙂
Jennette Marie Powell recently posted..A Binge that Won’t Hurt Your Waistline – or Your Wallet
Well I like how you think Jennette. How convenient since most of us hate that chore! But how long will this go on? Camping is fun, but full time? All I can say is it makes me feel appreciative for all we have, doesn’t it? Thanks for your thoughts Jennette! 🙂
Wow not a choice I’d want to have to make. But I have family that have had to live in various hotels, shelters when they lost their house and their car. It’s a crazy world, right?
Coleen Patrick recently posted..Literary Gifts
That it is Coleen! Right now we are living in a crazy world. And I too have had family who lost their home and have had to live out of their car. One time my husband and I took in a family member along with another family. We had twelve people living under our roof for a while. But it worked and you do what you have to do to help others. Especially family! We never know when it might happen to us someday, you know? Thanks for your comment! 🙂
I cannot begin to even imagine?!?! Making money hand over fist but not having a home or a way to live together with your family. That’s one hell of a sacrifice to make!!! I am not sure I could but desperate times usually make for desperate people. When it comes to putting food on the table for your family, I’d bet you’d do just about anything.
My heart breaks – no one should have to make that choice! But…some are making the best of it, aren’t they?!?! Hope springs internal!
Natalie Hartford recently posted..A nightmare you can never wake up from
Hi Natalie! I agree with you, what a sacrifice. And it is heartbreaking. What a choice to make, yet there are more people than we realize who are in fact living this nightmare. Yes, hope springs eternal! 🙂