Monday, November 12, 2007

Veterans Who Are Homeless

About one in four homeless men in Minnesota are military veterans. 600+ veterans live in shelters or on the street; most are men, but a few are women. Let's remember them on this Veterans Day.

Perhaps most tragic is that some of our veterans from the Iraq/Afghanistan conflicts are among the homeless. Many in this country oppose the war, but regardless of our opinion about whether we should have our military in Iraq, it seems unconscionable that we can't care for those who so recently served their country in the military.

Wilder Research has conducted a statewide homeless study every few years since the early 1990s; we conducted it on a more limited level beginning in the early 1980s. Over the years, we witnessed increases in the number of homeless people, with especially large increases in the number of children. Evidence from our most recent study indicates that the total number of homeless people might have leveled off, or even declined slightly.

That's good news, if it holds up when we repeat the study in 2009. Nonetheless, we cannot rest on our laurels, even if we have really turned the tide. Work remains to be done.

Last week, the Minneapolis Foundation brought together hundreds of people concerned about homelessness. We looked at the Wilder study data; we listened to Housing Finance Agency Commissioner Tim Marx describe how we can take action. Paul Williams, Richard Amos, and Gabrielle Strong highlighted the practical issues that challenge us, along with homeless people themselves, if we want to solve this issue.

We look forward to continuing to shed light on homelessness. If our collaborative effort to end long-term homelessness succeeds, it will be testimony to the strength and the will of Minnesotans to show compassion for the vulnerable and to include in our economy and civic life all who want to make their homes here, but have run into a few extraordinary difficulties in doing so.

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