Homelessness in Minnesota has dropped for the first time in a decade — nine percent since the last study in 2012 — according to a single-night survey by Wilder Research. But spokeswoman Michelle Gerrard says, despite a better economy, the percentage of people who have jobs but are still homeless has gone up since 2012. Nearly one-in-three homeless adults are employed — 14 percent full time — and Gerrard says “the median income for homeless people is about 550 [dollars] a month, and most housing is above that.” Researchers estimate 15 thousand Minnesotans are homeless on any given night — 40-thousand over the course of a year.
Sixty percent of homeless adults in Minnesota report having a serious mental illness and 51 percent have a chronic health condition, according to the survey. Gerrard says, “In some ways we don’t know which came first, the homelessness or the mental health problem, but they’re definitely interrelated and there’s not enough resources for people that do experience mental health problems.” The most common chronic health problems reported by homeless people are high blood pressure, asthma, other respiratory problems, heart or circulation problems and diabetes.
More info from the Wilder Research news release:
Homelessness is down for the first time since 2006. Targeted resources to end homelessness are making a difference. On October 22, 2015, Wilder counted 9,312 homeless adults, youth, and children in shelters, transitional housing, and non-shelter locations such as encampments and drop-in service locations. The number of people experiencing homelessness on a single night decreased 9 percent since the 2012 study.
Approximately 40,000 Minnesotans experience homelessness each year. The number of homeless people counted on the night of the study underrepresents the total homeless population. Many people experience homelessness for only a short time. Based on our counts, we can estimate that 15,000 people were homeless on any given night in Minnesota, with about 40,000 experiencing homelessness last year.
Thirty-five percent of homeless women in Minnesota are homeless as a result of domestic abuse. This is higher than reported in all previous Wilder studies since 1991 including 2012 when 30 percent of women were homeless as a result of domestic violence. Abuse and violence represent significant barriers to maintaining safe and stable housing. Fifty percent of homeless women and 24 percent of homeless men report they stayed in an abusive relationship because they had nowhere else to live.
Children and youth age 24 and younger are most likely to be homeless in Minnesota. Fifty-one percent of all homeless people in the state are 24 years old and younger. This includes children with their parents (35%) and youth on their own (both minors and young adults,16%). Even this is a low count, because youth on their own are especially difficult to count since many stay temporarily with friends or family and do not use shelters.
African Americans and American Indians also face a disproportionate risk of homelessness. African Americans and American Indians are far more likely to be homeless than members of other racial groups. African Americans make up 39 percent of homeless adults, but only 5 percent of adults statewide. American Indians make up 8 percent of homeless adults, compared to 1 percent statewide. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of homeless youth are African American, American Indian, Asian, Hispanic, or of mixed race. But youth in these groups represent only 26 percent of Minnesota’s total youth population.
Sixty percent of homeless adults in Minnesota report having a serious mental illness and 51 percent have a chronic health condition. Mental illness includes anxiety or panic disorder (42%), major depression (39%), post-traumatic stress disorder (28%), bipolar disorder (22%), personality disorder such as anti-social or obsessive-compulsive disorders (15%), and schizophrenia (7%) or other paranoid or delusional disorders (6%). The most common reported chronic health conditions are high blood pressure (30%), asthma (20%), other respiratory problems (12%), other heart or circulatory problems (11%), and diabetes (9%). Such illnesses represent significant barriers to obtaining and retaining safe and stable housing.
Nearly one-third (30%) of homeless adults are employed. Fourteen percent work full time. These rates have increased since 2012. However, the lack of employment and income are key reasons people become homeless and primary barriers to becoming stably re-housed. Nearly one-third of homeless adults (30%) report losing a job or having hours cut as a reason for losing housing, and 38 percent report a lack of job or income as a main barrier to obtaining housing.
There is not enough affordable housing. Adults most often report leaving their last housing due to inability to afford rent or mortgage (36%), and 22 percent report there is no housing available that they can afford. Forty-one percent of homeless adults are on a waiting list for subsidized housing, and another 14 percent can’t get on a wait list because it is closed.
“People used to think of homelessness as the individual’s issue, that somebody did something wrong and ended up homeless,” says Michelle Decker Gerrard, Wilder Senior Research Manager and study co-director. “This study has helped change the understanding of it to more of a societal issue influenced by factors such as availability of affordable housing, trends in the economy that impact employment, chronic health conditions and mental illness. We see that targeted efforts are clearly succeeding in helping people out of homelessness, but we will never end homelessness unless we address the dramatic shortage of affordable housing.”
Homelessness in Minnesota: Findings from the 2015 Minnesota Homeless Study is now available at www.mnhomeless.org.
The following additional sub-reports will be released in early 2017 with detailed findings and in-depth analysis:
- Homeless Youth in Minnesota
- Homelessness on Minnesota Indian Reservations
- Homeless Adults Age 55 and Older in Minnesota