By Lee Blons
Wilder Research has just announced that its most recent Minnesota Homeless Study, conducted on October 22, 2015, indicates that the number of people who are homeless in our state has declined for the first time since 2006. This is really important news for us to celebrate.
The first such study was conducted in 1991 and for the next decade we saw a relentless rise of homelessness in our community. By 2003, homelessness had increased 150 percent, reaching what felt like epidemic proportions. This led locally and nationally to new strategies to shelter people and to end homelessness through supportive housing and other specific initiatives.
By 2006, we saw the first decline in homelessness since 1991. We felt that the strategic investments were successful and we began to imagine that we would, in fact, end homelessness.
And then the bottom dropped out of the economy. Unemployment and foreclosures skyrocketed while homelessness rates soared higher than ever before—increasing by 30 percent and wiping out the gains measured in 2006. By 2012, homelessness had increased 230 percent since 1991.
During the downturn of the economy, Beacon and other organizations around the state pledged to stay the course and to seek further private and public investment to continue to invest in the strategies that could assure our most needy families and individuals the most basic of needs – a home.
Through the Homes For All campaign, Beacon Citizens and our allies statewide secured the largest investment in affordable housing by the State of Minnesota ever. We also increased funding for services, including the Homeless Youth Act, to help move people out of homelessness and into a home.
So with this in mind, I pause to celebrate the 9 percent decrease in homelessness.
The journey forward remains long and challenging. The 2015 study still finds more than 9,000 people who were homeless on a single night, meaning that the number of people who come in and out of homelessness during the year is significantly higher.
Beacon is committed to creating enough affordable and supportive housing such as Prior Crossing, 66 West and Great River Landing until we have in fact met the goal of ending homelessness in our community.