Homelessness in Minnesota: Race matters


Richard Amos is the housing services director at St. Stephen’s Housing, so he knows homelessness from the perspective of a service provider. But he also knows it f rom the other side. At the Wilder Foundation’s forum on May 25, Amos told his story:

I was homeless for 20 years and in and out of drug addictions and prison and jail. The last time I was locked up, I decided to change my life and go another way. St. Stephen’s gave me my first job (moving furniture). I had never really worked before, and no one in my family had, so it was new to me.

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

From that first job, Amos moved ahead, becoming a case manager while in college, and now directing the program. He sees race as a key factor in homelessness, and describes situations he has seen:

When I have European clients, they need almost no help, even if they have a serious past with convictions, bad credit, and so on.

One landlord said, “She sounds like my niece, she had a lot of problems and she straightened out.”

Black people deserve that chance, too.

The Wilder Foundation’s 2009 survey of homeless people in Minnesota found that people of color are over-represented in the homeless population:

Black and American Indian people remain significantly over-represented among the homeless. Together, African American and African-born people make up about 4 percent of the adult Minnesota population, while they account for 41 percent of Minnesota’s homeless adult population. American Indian disparities are particularly large among homeless youth and in greater Minnesota. About one-fifth of both groups are American Indian, compared to 1 percent of the overall Minnesota population. 



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