Study: Reservation homelessness persists

New homes
Thirty new homes constructed on the White Earth reservation are designed to be energy efficient and low maintenance. All of the homes are wired for rooftop solar panels which tribal officials will as funds are available. The new homes were built through a federal tax credit program. About 200 families living on the northern Minnesota reservation are on a waiting list for affordable housing. Researchers with the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation suggest that Housing improvements housing over the last several years has not led to fewer homeless people on Minnesota's Indian reservations.
MPR photo/ Dan Gunderson

Housing improvements over the last several years have not led to fewer homeless people on Minnesota's Indian reservations.

Researchers with the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation visited eight of the state's 11 reservations and found nearly 2,100 people who were homeless or doubled up with friends or relatives.

More than 600 people interviewed fit the strict federal definition of homeless, while the other 1,500 were doubled up with friends or relatives, usually in overcrowded conditions, said study author Ellen Shelton.

The problem requires a variety of solutions, Shelton said.

"The factors that go into it are a mix of challenges that individual people have inside of themselves and challenges that they have with relationships with other people, and the challenges that communities have, just with the infrastructure," Shelton said.

Shelton says the poor economy offset improvements in housing and social services after the first count in 2006.

"One step forward and one step back. What you can control got better, and the things they couldn't control got worse."

The data in this most recent study were gathered in 2009, but researchers needed consent from all eight tribal governments before releasing the figures.

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.