Homelessness in Minnesota: Women and children first


Almost half of all the homeless people in Minnesota are children and young adults (under 21), and another 23 percent are women. That’s what the Wilder Foundation’s 2009 statewide survey of homeless Minnesotans found.

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

In a May 25 conference at Wilder, Paul Mattessich explained that Wilder’s statewide survey, carried out every three years, is a snapshot in time. Trained volunteers fan out across the state, counting and interviewing homeless people. They ask about the causes, circumstances, and effects of homelessness on the individuals surveyed.

In 2009, the volunteers counted 9,654 homeless children, youths and adults. That’s 25 percent more than three years ago – or six years ago – or nine years ago, It’s also less than the best estimate of homeless Minnesotans, which is 13,100.

The increase in homelessness was greatest among young people:

  • The number of homeless 18-21 year olds increased by 57 percent, from 661 in 2006 to 1,041 in 2009. (57%)
  • Shelter capacity for youth relatively unchanged since 2003.
  • The largest increase in shelter turnaways was among youth.
  • Some 42 percent of youth had been physically abused, including 27 percent who had been sexually abused.

Beth Holger-Ambrose, Homeless Youth Services Coordinator, Department of Human Services, said that all programs for homeless youth “have taken a big hit” during the past few years. “There has been a huge rise in the number of youth experiencing homelessness but we have not been able to increase the number of shelter beds. … It’s heartbreaking.”


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