Understanding Homelessness

Homelessness is a complex issue and every story is different. Here is some basic information around homelessness in Minnesota, along with links to learn more about each of these topics.


Understanding Homelessness
Understanding Homelessness

Who experiences homelessness in Minnesota?

Minnesotans experiencing homelessness are moms and dads, sons and daughters, and grandmothers and grandfathers. They are people you would recognize as appearing homeless, and they are also kids in your child's class, people working full-time. Sometimes people experience homelessness for just a few days before returning to stability. Other times, the journey back to stability takes weeks, months, or years.

On October 25th, 2018, there were at least 10,233 people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota. It was estimated that there were 15,000 people homeless on a given night in Minnesota in 2015, with around 40,000 Minnesotans experiencing homelessness in a given year. Estimates for 2018 will be available soon.

On that night in October of 2018, 40% of people experiencing homelessness (or 4,072) were counted in Hennepin County. Children and youth made up 43% of those experiencing homelessness in Hennepin County. Five hundred people who were identified in Hennepin County were age 55 or older -- a 25% increase over the 2015 count.

The 10,233 people counted in October of 2018 all met the federal definition of homelessness. You can read the full definition here, but it essentially requires that a person lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence and is primarily spending nights in shelter or in public or private places not meant for human habitation.

Other definitions of homelessness include people who are "doubling up" or staying with a friend, but St. Stephen's generally uses the federal definition to align with funding requirements.

For more information about who experiences homelessness in the Twin Cities, this article is very helpful: Getting a handle on the size of the homeless population in the Twin Cities, MinnPost.

Why are people in Minnesota experiencing homelessness?

There is only one thing that people experiencing homelessness have in common: they don't have a stable place to live.

Homelessness is the result of complicated, systemic traumas. Actions and events that lead to homelessness cannot be reduced to voluntary choices made by individuals and families.

A fundamental reason that people are experiencing homelessness is that there is not enough affordable housing in Minnesota. Read more about that issue here: Affordable Housing.

Another fundamental reason that people experience homelessness in Minnesota is that the minimum wage is not a bridge out of poverty. In Minnesota, a household must earn more than $39,000 per year to afford the average 2-bedroom rental while leaving enough of their income for food and other needs. Learn more about this issue here: Economic Stability.

Evictions are another major challenge in our community. Evictions create housing instability in the short-term when families and individuals lose their immediate housing, and limiting housing access in the long-term since property owners frequently screen out potential tenants who have prior evictions. Our friends at CommonBond Communities have a must-read article on "Four Myths About Evictions."

It would be irresponsible to talk about why people experience homelessness without acknowledging the impact of systemic racism.  In Hennepin County, Indigenous residents experience homelessness at 23 times the rate of white residents, and Black or African American residents experience homelessness at 15 times the rate of white residents. This highlights the white supremacy inherent in systems that prevent people from building wealth and credit, and consequently, maintaining stable housing. Here are some resources for learning more about racial disparities in homelessness and their roots:

The National Alliance to End Homelessness - "Racial Inequality"

"A Pileup of Inequities: Why People of Color are Hit Hardest by Homelessness" (Pew Trusts)

"Homelessness is a Symptom of Racism" (Huffington Post)

For more information about why people are experiencing homelessness, this article is a great start: Start by knowing why: 5 reasons people are homeless in Minnesota, MinnPost.

What can we do to end homelessness?

St. Stephen's ends homelessness for individuals and families every day. Through prevention, targeted intervention, and Housing First practices, we support people in stabilizing and rebuilding their lives.

To learn more about what needs to be done to end homelessness on a larger scale in Minnesota, view our Advocacy Agenda and sign up for the Advocacy in ACTion Network. The first place to start would be contacting your legislators to let them know you want more affordable housing in Minnesota.

Homelessness Ends With You.

Learn more about homelessness in Minnesota.
Send a note to your legislator to advocate for systems change.
You can make a difference.


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