Hennepin County sees 268% increase in families experiencing homelessness

[anvplayer video=”5150769″ station=”998122″]

Hennepin County is seeing a major spike in families facing homelessness.

According to the county’s most recent shelter report, 217 families were sleeping in shelters in mid-November, which marks a 268% increase from the same time last year.

“It is heartbreaking and it’s a crisis. I don’t like to throw that word around lightly, but it’s not okay right now,” said Rinal Ray, CEO of People Serving People, a family shelter in Minneapolis.

Data shows the level of need across the county is almost double the capacity of shelters, with overflow families being placed in hotels.

“Inflation means gas costs more, food costs more and that rent costs more, so families with very limited means are having a very hard time making those ends meet,” Ray said.

Pandemic-related programs, such as rental assistance and temporary eviction bans, have also ended.

“Almost to the day and minute those measures went away, we’ve seen this return to high levels of shelter use,” said David Hewitt, Hennepin County’s director of housing stability.

Hewitt said the county is working to scale up its response to meet the growing need.

“Our goal has to be that for all of these families in shelter, what is that long-term solution? And how do we help them move to it as quickly as possible?” Hewitt said.

The county plans to continue building on a Homeless to Housing program it started last winter, which provides intensive one-on-one help for people experiencing homelessness.

Hewitt said the program initially helped 464 people at high-risk of contracting COVID-19, including seniors, find a permanent place to live, with 97% of them still housed.

The county expanded the program and has now served an additional 345 people.

But data shows more families are in need of help every week in Hennepin County.

“Rents are too high and the number of affordable, sustainable units continue to be far too low. It’s a frightening landscape that we’re seeing families face in the Twin Cities at this point,” said Steve Horsfield, executive director of Simpson Housing Services.

Simpson Housing Services runs a shelter for single adults, which is currently located in the basement of a church in Minneapolis.

They are planning a large expansion at that site, which will include a new adult shelter space and 42 units of permanent supportive housing.

Simpson Housing Services also serves 255 families through its supportive housing program, which works with 300 landlords across the metro to place families into stable housing.

“Everything really starts with a safe place to lay your head at night. Everything in life is more challenging without that,” Horsfield said.

Simpson Housing Services is putting out the call for volunteers and donations, so they can expand programs to meet the growing need in Hennepin County.

You can also donate to the family shelter at People Serving People by clicking here.