Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Homeless in Minnesota - A Few Facts

About 200 individuals joined us yesterday to take a look at highlights of Wilder Research's latest study of the homeless in Minnesota. This series of studies began in the early 1980s; it became statewide in the early 1990s.

You can obtain reports on the Wilder Research web site. Also, you can find slides from the first hour presentation.

By our estimates, the number of homeless people in Minnesota is between 9,200 and 9,300. That's roughly equal to, or possibly slightly less than, the numbers of three years ago. This estimate is based on a one-night count. We do a unique study that involves almost 1,000 volunteers who interview people who live in shelters and people who do not live in shelters throughout the state.

The study contains a great deal of information to which we need to pay attention, if we want to make progress on the issue of homelessness. In several blogs, I'll touch on a few pieces of relevant data; I'll also suggest issues, challenges, and ingredients for moving ahead successfully.

First, a few demographics:
- About half of the homeless in Minnesota are female; about half are male. This surprises many people.
- Very young adults (18-21) and the "middle aged" (35-54) tend to be over-represented among the homeless, relative to their proportion of the total state population. Older people (55+) are definitely under-represented among the homeless; people 55 and older comprise 28% of the state's adults, yet only 8% of homeless adults.
- Homeless adults tend to have less education than adults in general. For example, 63% of the state's adults over age 25 have some education beyond high school; 32% of homeless adults have that level of education.

The most striking demographic data relate to race:
- Blacks/African-Americans constitute 38% of homeless adults in contrast to 3% of Minnesota's adult population.
- American Indians constitute 11% of homeless adults in contrast to 1% of Minnesota's adult population.
- Latinos constitute 7% of homeless adults in contrast to 3% of Minnesota's adult population.
In short, groups of color are over-represented among the homeless.

Children also deserve some note:
- Of the roughly 9,200 homeless persons, about 3,400 are children.
- 2,800 of these are with their parents. This is more than the 875 that we found back in 1991.
- 600 are on their own
- Among children with their parents, about half are preschool age.
- The youngest child whom we interviewed living on their own was age 11.

In future blogs, I'll mention some additional information. However, more importantly, I'll focus on what we need to do to move ahead. If you want more facts, please take a look at the reports.

The team for this study deserves our appreciation. Dr. Greg Owen has directed this work since its first days 23 years ago. Principal staff who collaborated with him on this latest study include Ellen Shelton, Michelle Gerrard, Karen Ulstad, and June Heineman. Many others at Wilder Research also contributed. And, of course, it would not have occurred without the assistance of close to 1,000 volunteers, collaborating organizations, and our funders - all of whom hope that eventually this research will cease because we will have resolved the issue.

If you have thoughts, I would value the opportunity to hear them.


Ray said...

Thanks for the facts, Paul.

Anonymous said...

I have been homeless in Minnesota for over 2 1/2 years. I am escaping
domestic violence with my children, and after being thrown on the
street it took a month to receive "emergency assistance" from the
county. That is 3 weeks without any food, medical or financial
assistance. I have learned that you have to call shelters (if you can
find a phone--I usually go to [name of store] or a hospital to get a free one)early in the am because they fill up fast, and will turn you away. I have even been turned away because I have too many children, and there is not enough space for all of us. Once I waited too long at [name of shelter], was given $1 by [name of staff person] and told she can't help me. Mary told me to call Red Cross, and you can imagine how rude they were to
me--asking why I was calling in the first place! By then it was 5pm and
all the shelters were full, and we had no place to go. I learned that
sleeping on a couch or staying with friends does not qualify you as "homeless" and to do so will risk your eligibility to get help. I learned you will be blamed for being a bad mom because you are homeless while the abuser, who is living in your home and refusing to support the family, is considered a model parent. I learned that even in a shelter you are left on your own to find a way out--most of the staff ignores your problems or just assumes you will figure it out. I learned street people care for each other like family, and find ways to survive because we all have struggled against the same demon--poverty & homelessness. I am lucky to be in shelter tonight. God bless all those on the streets. And God bless those who didn't make it.