Homelessness in Minnesota: Greater Minnesota’s growing homeless population


“The cool thing in rural areas is we are related to everybody – like the mail carrier or the guy who drives the grader down the road,” and that makes it possible to ask where there’s a boarded up house or somewhere else that homeless people may be located, said Liz Kuoppala, director of the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless. That’s important, because homeless Minnesotans in rural areas usually are not found in shelters.

This is one of a series of four short articles about homelessness in Minnesota, based on the Wilder Foundation report, , and on a May 25 Wilder conference on homelessness. The articles in the series are:
Homelessness in Minnesota: Women and children first
Homelessness in Minnesota: Race matters
Homelessness in Minnesota: Health and illness
Homelessness in Minnesota: Greater Minnesota’s growing homeless population


Kuoppala was part of a panel at the Wilder Foundation conference on homelessness on May 25. The Wilder Foundation’s every-three-years survey of homeless Minnesotans found more homeless people in greater Minnesota in 2009 than in previous years. According to the survey, “In 1991, one out of five (20%) homeless persons were found in greater Minnesota, whereas in 2009 about one-third (32%) were found in greater Minnesota.”

That means more than 3,000 of the 9,654 people who were counted in 2009 lived in greater Minnesota. Wilder estimates that the total number of homeless people in Minnesota is at least 13,100 on any given night, which would mean more than 4,000 homeless people in greater Minnesota.


Graph is from Wilder’s report: Homelessness in Minnesota

“We need more shelters,” Kuoppala said. “Maybe in metro area we have enough shelters and the job is to rehouse people. but in greater Minnesota, we don’t have shelters, and we need them. Imagine – if there were no shelters and no transitional housing – that’s what we are faced with in rural Minnesota. It can be hundreds of miles to a shelter.”

Organizations working on issues of homelessness

Two students from Hill-Murray High School began working on homeless issues two years ago. Erica Skuta and Dan Wells will graduate in 2010, and part of their legacy at Hill-Murray, and beyond, is the 31-page guide they wrote to urge other students to take action. A Student’s Guide to Ending Homelessness is available as a PDF document. Some of the local organizations they listed as resources are:

For more information, read Wilder’s report: Homelessness in Minnesota