A new report from St. Paul-based Wilder Research estimates there are 4,500 homeless children on any given night in Minnesota.
Wilder Center research scientist Greg Owen said that's the highest number since the St. Paul nonprofit began its homeless surveys in 1991.
"Those numbers represent more than a 25 percent increase over previous time periods, and most importantly, it represents some very young children," Owen said. "Half of the children in this study are under age six, and kids who are really quite vulnerable."
The survey shows half the parents have medical problems, Owen said.
"The most common is parental depression," he said. "It's really hard to effectively address the needs of your children when you're faced with both a mental health problem yourself and then the difficulty of trying to get at resources you need just to meet your family's daily needs including food, shelter and clothing."
Owen said the new numbers come from a survey Wilder conducts every three years, the most recent being done in 2009.
Wilder analyzes the data and issues periodic reports on segments of the homeless population. Owen said semiannual state-conducted surveys of shelters since 2009 have not shown any decrease in the numbers of homeless people.