Minnesotans Debate Solutions for Homelessness
Carol McCarthy | Sep 26, 2017 AT 7:56 am
BRAINERD, Minn. - More than 600 people are brainstorming solutions to homelessness today and tomorrow in Brainerd. The annual conference of the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless includes service providers, DHS staff, tribal leaders, legislators and people who are experiencing homelessness.
Senta Leff, executive director of the coalition, says there has been bipartisan buy-in to address the problem. And five gubernatorial candidates, including one Republican, will participate in a forum at the conference.
"Despite the fact that things are a little tougher at the federal level, one of the things we're really positive about is how the issue has been owned by both Republicans and Democrats at a state level," she says.
Leff says last session, the legislature appropriated $77 million for housing, the fourth-largest item in the bonding bill. The Wilder Foundation's latest study in 2015 found more than 9,000 Minnesotans were homeless, including 3,300 children.
The Wilder Foundation has been tracking homelessness since 1991.
Wilder's Michelle Decker Gerrard says in its 2012 survey, after the recession, homelessness had spiked 32 percent. And one major contributor hasn't improved - there's still not enough affordable housing for renters.
"There is very little rental housing," she laments. "So, we have between 2 and 3 percent rental vacancy and so, people who are at the low end of the economic ladder are competing for the same rental housing as people who have a lot of resources."
Decker Gerrard says 40 percent of homeless Minnesotans are on waiting lists for subsidized housing, and another 14 percent are waiting for a spot on those lists.
Decker Gerrard says the problem is more obvious in the Twin Cities where many homeless shelters are, but it's just as serious in Greater Minnesota.
"It's harder to find people who are homeless outside of the metro area, because they're tending to sleep in places not intended for habitation," she adds. "Like, they might be sleeping in a cabin that's only meant for summer, or they might be temporarily staying in their car. So the homelessness is all throughout the state."
The Wilder Foundation's next survey will be conducted in October 2018.