This year's legislative session brought good news for housing and homelessness programs.
State lawmakers approved an additional $33 million for programs that prevent homelessness and build affordable housing. The increase will make a significant difference, said Cathy ten Broeke, the state director to Prevent and End Homelessness.
"People have asked, is this everything we need to end homelessness? And of course not," ten Broeke said. "But it's such a positive direction, and really shows that this governor and his administration and some very key legislators understand that housing stability is so critical to so many of the goals they have as a state -- improving educational outcomes, building a stronger work force, etc."
The money will go to a number of programs including rental assistance for families with children; assistance for people exiting prisons; homelessness prevention; and lower-cost housing development.
Liz Kuoppala, the executive director of the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless, said the increase was needed because services have not been able to meet the growing need.
"Over the last six years, we've seen a 31 percent increase in homelessness across the state," Kuoppala said. "And there just aren't enough places for people to go. And there's a continuum of homeless services -- prevention, shelter, short and long-term supportive housing, and all of those are booked solid, full. There's need, and people can't access the resources they need."
More than 10,000 people are homeless in Minnesota on any given night, according to Wilder Research. The funding boost includes $4 million to help unaccompanied homeless youth.
Ten Broeke said those youth are a particularly vulnerable group.
"We're talking about kids who have very significant issues, who have been abused and neglected, and have been bounced from one system to another and are not going to make it if we don't intervene," she said. "And so this really gives us an opportunity to not only ensure that these kids have stability, but to prevent them from becoming our homeless adults."