An annual count of homelessness in Hennepin County has confirmed that the number of people in shelters or transitional housing continues to fall.
The January count conducted for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) confirms results of an earlier triennial survey in October by the Wilder Foundation. Wilder found a 15 percent drop in the number of Hennepin County residents considered homeless between 2012 and 2015.
The latest count found 3,056 homeless people in the county, a drop of 5 percent since 2015. The county’s homeless population peaked at 3,731 in 2014. Although the number of families counted was down by 13 percent, the number of children in those families was up 5 percent, which the county attributed to slightly larger family sizes. The count is based on self-reports by shelters and street outreach by agencies serving the homeless.
One bright spot was that the number of people considered chronically homeless dropped from 601 to 360, reflecting outreach work. But a greater share of them lived outside the shelter system. HUD defines those chronically homeless as people with a disability who have been homeless for a year or four times in the previous three years.
Monica Nilsson, director of community engagement for St. Stephens Human Services, which participated in the count, said one difficulty in reducing the Hennepin County homeless population is a lack of shelter alternatives in the metro area outside of Minneapolis or St. Paul. She said the conversion of lower-income housing by landlords seeking higher rents also makes it more difficult for people to meet landlords’ income requirements.