Minneapolis community leaders rally to end homelessness

Hennepin County and Minneapolis developed a ten-year plan to eradicate homelessness by 2016.

Anissa Stocks

In 2006, Hennepin County Commissioners and the Minneapolis City Council banded together in an effort to end homelessness in the city by 2016. The ten-year plan, called Heading Home Hennepin , is an organization with a coalition of nearly 70 county leaders that aims at reducing poverty levels, increasing aid and providing adequate housing opportunities for the countyâÄôs homeless. Officials said the organization will develop 5,000 new housing opportunities in ten years. Homeless shelter operators say the goal to end homelessness entirely is unlikely. Project coordinator Cathy ten Broeke said initiatives will ensure that housing needs are met and secured for Hennepin CountyâÄôs homeless population. In 2007 and 2008, the plan provided 1,128 housing opportunities through existing and new housing units. The county constructed 198 new units over that time. One new unit, Nicollet Square on Nicollet Avenue, celebrated its groundbreaking on Thursday. Ten Broeke said it is the first new construction for youth in the ten-year plan. The ten-year plan houses the cityâÄôs homeless through new and existing housing units and is largely funded through federal stimulus grants. âÄúWeâÄôve been very successful this year in getting people housed through the existing market,âÄù she said. âÄúOne of our strategies is to sustain whatâÄôs already there and develop new [housing] opportunities so that people can have a place to call home,âÄù she said. Hennepin County and the city of Minneapolis received a $6.5 million stimulus package this year for homelessness prevention to be used over the course of three years. Hennepin County Commissioner Gail Dorfman said there are more than 100 committees working to end homelessness within the ten-year plan including a healthcare committee and street outreach committee. âÄúHomelessness has been in Minneapolis since the early 1980s,âÄù she said. Although the plan has provided hundreds with housing, ten Broeke said there are setbacks that limit the organizationâÄôs ten-year plan. She said unallotted cuts from Gov. Tim PawlentyâÄôs administration have âÄúcrippledâÄù the organizationâÄôs ability to transfer people from shelters to housing. City shelters such as Listening House in St. Paul have seen significant increases from ten years ago. Executive Director Rosemarie Reger-Rumsey said the single-adult shelter serves around 220 individuals per day, which is a 40 percent increase from five years ago. Of those served, about 82 percent are male. Reger-Rumsey said fewer job opportunities and landlord foreclosures account for much of the increase. Criminal history, lack of employment and mental illness is the reason for most single-adult homelessness, she said. âÄúWe are seeing more people who have a complicated mental illness than in the past,âÄù Reger-Rumsey said. State cuts to medical care programs for the poor have left Hennepin County with up to $40 million in uncompensated care, ten Broeke said. âÄúIn my mind this isnâÄôt just about funding programs, itâÄôs about investing in solutions,âÄù she said. Reger-Rumsey said she doesnâÄôt believe Hennepin County homelessness will end by 2016. âÄúIâÄôm not even hopeful it will happen in Ramsey County,âÄù she said. âÄúI think that it is on the radar âĦ I think itâÄôs beyond the capability of city government to address it. [Government] is limited as to how much it can put into homelessness from a dollar perspective.âÄù Reger-Rumsey said volunteer numbers have increased since she started at Listening House. âÄúWe have tripled our volunteer core in the ten years IâÄôve been here,âÄù she said. âÄúWe do have a very engaged community out there willing to help serve.âÄù