After leveling off in the mid-2000s the number of homeless people in Minnesota has dramatically increased according to initial findings from Wilder Research’s triennial statewide homelessness study. The one day survey conducted in October, 2009 counted 9,452 homeless adults, youth, and children in shelters, transitional housing, and on the streets. This compares to 7,751 homeless adults, youth and children counted in 2006.
For the purposes of the study, Northeast counties include Cook, Lake, Carlton, Aitkin, Itasca and Koochiching. St. Louis was counted as a separate statistic along with other high population areas.
The number of homeless families with children state-wide increased 27% and the average age of children with their parents is six and a half. In the Northeast region, 122 families with children were identified as long-term homeless. This means they have been homeless for at least a year currently or four times over the past three years. One disturbing statistic found the Northeast has the highest percent of long-term homeless children living with parents – higher even than metro counties.
The study also counted a 40% increase in youth on their own ages 17 through 21 -- 20 such youth were counted in the Northeast. Nearly twice as many women as men between ages 22 to 54 were living in temporary housing and shelters in the region. When it comes to those living in informal or unsheltered conditions, men outnumbered women. The total number of homeless in the Northeast was 214 – 74 were children.
Greg Owen, director of the study said, “These results are troubling, but they are not surprising. The tough economic landscape of the past few years coupled with the recent shrinking of the safety net has made life a lot tougher, especially for those already living on the margin.”
Twenty percent of the state’s homeless adults reported they were employed, either full time or part time. Thirty-nine percent of adults left their last permanent housing because of eviction, foreclosure, or failure to have their lease renewed, 40 percent reported that a job loss or reduction in hours was a reason for the loss of their last housing.
Forty-six percent of homeless adults have a chronic health condition during the preceding year, 55% have a serious mental illness and 23% have been diagnosed with a drug or alcohol abuse disorder. Seventy-four percent of youth age 21 and younger have been homeless before. On average, youth first experienced homelessness at age 15. About 20% have served in the armed services. Of this group, 44% report a service-related health problem and 26% have served in a combat zone.
Sixty-eight percent of homeless people found in the study were in metro area locations. Overall, people of color represent 62% of Minnesota’s adult homeless population, but make up only about 13% of the adult population.
More than 1,000 volunteers conducted interviews in almost 400 locations including emergency shelters, battered women's shelters, and transitional housing programs, as well as in non-shelter locations that include encampments, abandoned buildings, under bridges and other places not intended for habitation.