Minnesota homeless population on the rise

New reports indicate a 25 percent increase in the Minnesota homeless rate over the last three years. This figure is on par with the rest of the nation. While most people still await their tax surplus rebate, close to 5,500 homeless adults and children roam the Minnesota streets and shelters. Many people waiting for their tax returns are barely one paycheck away from being homeless themselves. The pittance they receive is but a testimony to their struggle for survival. The homeless will see no surplus.
According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, the principle cause of such an increase in the homeless rate is a critical shortage of low-cost housing. The Department of Housing and Urban Development claims the Twin Cities area alone needs 38,000 low-income units. The federal government stopped building low-income housing in the early 1980s and since 1995 stopped all rental assistance programs. Shelters are bursting at the seams.
While the federal government blows its horn in celebration of a balanced economy, it selectively turns a blind eye toward this serious national malady. Most of the homeless are women and children, and if ethics dictate that when a ship goes down the right thing to do is save the women and children first, something has gone awry. The U.S. Bureau of the Census claims that 36.5 million Americans live in poverty. Forty percent of these people are children. Since 1985, the number of homeless children has risen a dramatic 881 percent in Minneapolis. The percentage rate across the country lags not too far behind.
The myth that homeless do not work simply is not true. Yet minimum wage earners are barely compensated in the struggle to support their families. Labor markets are undergoing transformations that leave the underskilled — and their families — literally out in the cold. Deindustrialization, reduction of unionization and global integration are strong contributing factors. If the more than 35 million in poverty figure holds true, it begs the question of just exactly what the federal government means by a balanced economy. Minimum wage falls far below the average purchasing power needed to sustain a stable existence. Those who do have some form of housing are paying more than half of their incomes just to keep a roof over their heads.
Programs like Aid to Families with Dependent Children have all but shattered. Drops in welfare caseloads due to reform legislation just mean more people are getting less benefits. It doesn’t mean they are doing better because of employment. Many states have cut their general assistance programs. With the Social Security system on the verge of collapse, America can anticipate that the homeless problem will become far worse.
Homelessness is the result of little or no health care, poor housing and education, domestic violence, drug and alcohol addiction and mental illness. The problem is a complex one. However, it is cruel and bigoted to think the problem is simply because the homeless are lazy or drunk or mentally and emotionally sick. It is wrong to think these individuals and their families will some day get their act together on their own. They need help. They need compassion. They need a home.