An unprecedented number of advocates and volunteers fanned out across Minnesota one evening last October and counted just over 7700 people who are homeless. Factoring in those missed the Wilder Foundation's survey shows 9300 state residents were homeless that night.
The survey found the number of ex-offenders who are homeless has nearly doubled. Another red flag is a growing number of homeless people who have mental health problems, researchers say.
The Wilder survey comes as state officials say Minnesota's bid to end homelessness has found housing for nearly 400 families and has exceeded it's annual housing goal. Nancy Kadwell, who directs the state's plan to end homelessness, says the goal by 2010 is 4000 units of housing.
"That's about a half a billion dollars. That's money coming from all over from the philanthropic sector from the federal government," she says.
Kadwell says federal support includes the announcement this week by HUD of several million dollars for various Minnesota non-profits working to end homelessness. The biggest grant, nearly $2 million, goes to Minneapolis-based Hearth Connection. But Jon Gutzman, director of public housing for St. Paul says federal money for public housing that might prevent homelessness has been cut.
A lack of affordable housing remains a problem for moving people out of shelters and into housing of their own.
"The bush administration continues its now seven year assault on the public housing program," he says.
Gutzman is president of the National Association of Public Housing Directors. Waits for public housing, if the lists are open at all, can include waiting times running into years. Public housing budget cuts and a cap on Section 8 housing have set back efforts to end homelessness, according to Gutzman.
"For everyone that we house in affordable housing programs, another four or five (who) qualify by income eligibility, they are not in it and many of them are the homeless folks," he says.
The state's plan to end homelessness is counting on $50 million of giving from private sources. The Pohlad family foundation today gave $1 million to the effort.