Minnesota homelessness up 85% since 1991: study FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Tue, 16 Jun 1998 16:03:46 -0700 (PDT)

FWD  Star Tribune - Statewire - June 14, 1998


ST. PAUL (AP) -- The number of homeless people in Minnesota has nearly
doubled in this decade due to a critical shortage of low-cost housing and
despite a booming economy, a study released Sunday said.

The statewide survey by the Wilder Research Center is a snapshot, taken Oct.
23, 1997, of homelessness in Minnesota. The center took similar surveys in
October 1991 and 1994.

"This research challenges many of the myths surrounding homelessness in
Minnesota, " said Greg Owen, who directed the study." Today, more
homeless people are employed ... more have money to pay for rent and fewer
have been unemployed for long periods of time. Yet long-term stable housing
remains elusive."

The newest Wilder findings include:

The ranks of Minnesota's homeless have increased 85 percent since 1991.
Including the number of people forced to "double up" in housing with
friends, there were an estimated 15, 759 homeless and "precariously housed"
people in Minnesota last October. That's nearly double the 7, 980 in 1991.

Children make up nearly half the homeless people in Minnesota. The survey
counted 2,548 homeless children and estimated that 9,363 children are either
homeless or precariously housed, making up 59 percent of all people in the
state who lack permanent housing.

The fastest-growing homeless segments are women and children. Women
represented 53 percent of the adult homeless population, compared with 40
percent in 1991.

The number of adults and children in emergency shelters, battered women's
shelters and transitional housing programs was 5,238, up 85 percent from 2,
875 in 1991.

Homeless Minnesota residents are more likely to be working. While fewer
than one in five homeless adults was working in 1991, more than one third
had at least a part time job in 1997 and one in six had full-time employment.

Homeless people here have more money. The median monthly income of
people in emergency shelters was $400 for men and $465 for women,
compared with $237 for all shelter residents in 1991.

They are less likely to get charity. The percentage of homeless people in
Minnesota who have or use food stamps, free clothing shelves, hot meal
programs, drop-in centers or medical assistance has dropped from 1991 to
1997, with the figures varying program by program.

Minnesota's homeless include a disproportionate number of racial minorities,
particularly blacks in the Twin Cities area and American Indians outstate.
Although people of color make up 10 percent of Minnesota' s population, they
are 60 percent of the people using homeless shelters.

Nearly one-third of homeless adults said they had been told by a doctor or a
nurse within the past two years that they had a serious mental illness.

A federal government report this year said the Twin Cities area alone needs at
least 38,000 more low-income units.

"In the early 1980s, the federal government stopped building new housing
for poor people," Owen said. "And in 1995, they stopped all new federal
rental assistance programs. So we don't build housing for poor people
anymore, and we're not making rental assistance available."

Ron Elwood, a Ramsey County human services planner, said the housing
shortage is offsetting wage gains that homeless people are making.

"Even though more people are working, they're working at wages that are
insufficient to afford market-rate housing," Elwood said.

The survey was based on interviews with 689 men and 891 women living in
emergency shelters, transitional housing or on the street. The Wilder Research
Center is part of the Wilder Foundation, a St. Paul-based philanthropic


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