Minnesota homelessness increasing

Homelessness in Minnesota increased dramatically over the past three years, according to the October 2009 Wilder Research study. Wilder has conducted the study every three years since 1991, and found that homelessness stayed fairly constant from 2000-2006, with a low of 7,696 and a high of 7,854. In 2009, however, volunteers counted 9,452 homeless Minnesotans.

The 22 percent increase included 1,670 families with 3,251 children, whose average age was six and one-half years old. An additional 1,207 youth were homeless and on their own, up from 867 in 2006.

Greg Owens, the study director, characterized the results as “troubling, but not surprising.” More people are becoming homeless because of economic conditions, Wilder reported:

• 39% percent of homeless adults left their last permanent housing because of eviction, foreclosure, or failure to have their lease renewed; up from 32 percent in 2006.

• 40% of homeless adults reported a job loss or reduction in hours was a reason for the loss of their last housing; up from 31 percent in 2006

• 20% percent of homeless adults reported current employment, full or part-time, down from about 28 percent in 2006, while average hours of employment per week also dropped to 26 from 30 in 2006.

• 44% of homeless adults are on a waiting list for some form of public housing (up from 34% in 2006).

    The Wilder study was conducted by more than 1,000 volunteers who interviewed people across Minnesota in shelters, transitional housing programs, drop-in service locations and other locations such as abandoned buildings or places where homeless people camp. Wilder survey included only those people who were actually located and interviewed. Later reports will include estimates of the number of people who were missed.

    Looking just at Hennepin and Ramsey counties, the Minnesota Housing Partnership’s “2 x 4” report for the fourth quarter of 2009, released March 31, found mixed figures on homelessness in December:

    • For the 4th quarter, an average of 260 families per month occupied Hennepin County contracted shelters. This number is 12% higher than the 4th quarter of 2008, and 66% higher than the 4th quarter of 2006.

    • However, there was a dramatic fall in family homelessness within the quarter itself in Hennepin County. In December, the family homeless number eased markedly to 201 families, likely due to the homeless prevention program discussed above.

    • The Minneapolis and St. Paul public schools identified 4,700 homeless youth through December of the school year, 8% higher than last year and 22% higher than the year before.

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