Homeless shelters see spike in number of people seeking beds


Some Minneapolis homeless shelters are seeing an increase in summer usage that activists say could be an indirect result of the high number of foreclosures in the city.

Jim Minor, president of Downtown’s People Serving People (PSP), 614 S. 3rd St., said the organization’s shelter has seen a 25 percent increase in the number of residents this summer compared to last summer.

While the increase can’t be directly attributed to the high number of foreclosures in areas of the city such as North Minneapolis, Minor said the increase could possibly be a “trickle down” effect of the foreclosures.

“People who experience foreclosures qualify for other places like apartments,” Minor said. “It gets competitive in the apartment market, and then it gets competitive here.”

Yet Minor made clear that the connection is not a direct one.

“Very few families would come [to PSP] if they had just lost a home,”
Minor said. “We’re not at a high-water mark. Five or six years ago, we had more guests a day than we have now.”

Other than home foreclosures, PSP — a shelter that serves families — finds that other factors contribute to the increase in demand for shelter during the summer months. Its population has been spiking in the summer months and declining in the winter months consistently over a 15-year span, according to Minor — a trend that might seem counterintuitive.

“People want to get settled so their kids can participate in Minneapolis schools,” Minor said. “That process begins in the summer months.”

Minor also attributed the increase in demand during the summer to families who allow homeless relatives or friends to stay with them during the cold winter months of the year, and then ask them to leave during the summer.

PSP currently serves about 230–235 guests a day, with numbers topping out at more than 250 guests some days.

With increased competition in finding low-income apartments, home foreclosure victims are having a harder time finding new homes. Making matters worse are the numerous foreclosures on low-income Minneapolis apartment complexes.

Cathy ten Broeke, coordinator of the City-County Commission to End Homelessness, said that low-income apartment foreclosures will not only affect families searching for housing, but the entire homeless population.

“All these renters have to go and find another place to rent,” ten Broeke said. “The issue is that even those apartments that have space are far out of the [price] range for people who are really experiencing homelessness.”

As of now, ten Broeke believes that families have been hit the hardest by home foreclosures. It is “too early to tell” if the foreclosures have driven up resident population at PSP, but it could be part of the issue, she said.

In addition to the effect of home foreclosures, ten Broeke said many Minneapolis families are in the midst of exhausting their 60-month Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) funding. MFIP is the state’s welfare reform program for low-income families with children, and it provides cash and food assistance. Some of the families running out of MFIP money are experiencing barriers like mental illness on the road to employment and reliable housing, ten Broeke said.

A smaller shelter than PSP, Simpson Housing Services, located at 2100 Pillsbury Ave. S. in the Whittier neighborhood, serves 46 men and 20 women in its separate shelters. Wendy Wiegmann, the family housing director at Simpson, said both shelters are full almost every night.

“We have to do a lottery on Monday nights to see who stays,” Wiegmann said.

Wiegmann noted that Simpson does not serve families, and victims of foreclosed homes were unlikely to seek shelter at Simpson. However, the shelter has hosted people from foreclosed homes in the past, Wiegmann said. She said that PSP would be more affected by home foreclosures than Simpson due to its heavy service to families who might have experienced a foreclosure.

Other shelters exhibit an even weaker case for foreclosed homes sending people to shelters. Housing Director Tracy Bergland of the Downtown Catholic Charities is currently reporting a lower population of shelter guests.

“With only single men here, we can’t make a direct connection to foreclosures,” Bergland said.

During the summer months, Catholic Charities guests will often return outdoors and reduce the shelter population, Bergland said.

Although home foreclosures may have little to do with Catholic Charities’ population, Bergland does think that foreclosures on apartments could make an impact.

“It will definitely make folks homeless,” Bergland said. “We haven’t felt the effects yet, but we could in the future.”

If anything, Minneapolis shelter advocates feel like home and apartment foreclosures are indirectly making it harder for the most needy. Michael Dahl, executive director of the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless, sees a competitive housing market snubbing people who might be down on their luck.

“When you have a competitive rental market, people in foreclosures might have somewhere to rent, but people who are just looking for someplace to stay might get edged out,” he said.