Rising numbers of two-parent families are homeless in Minnesota, according to new findings from the Wilder Foundation's 2012 count of homeless people in the state. The one-day count last fall of people who were homeless, primarily those in shelters but also in other locations, showed 298 couples with children.

That was only 17 percent of all homeless families last year -- with the majority still being single mothers with kids, according to the Wilder count. But it was an increase from the 245 families identified in the prior Wilder homelessness count in 2009. 

"For years, I think there was a perception that most of the families who were homeless were headed by single parents," said Michelle Gerrard, the homeless study co-director. There were often practical reasons. Shelters for abused women, for example, only took in mothers with their kids.

But the increase in two-income families suggests that the 2007-2009 recession has had some lasting impacts and that some families are struggling to rise above them.

"The increase in the two parent families ... could be tied more to recessional indicators like employment," Gerrard said. 

Some of the overall findings from the Wilder homelessness count were released in February. But today, the organization released detailed demographic findings about these people and how long they have been without stable housing.

The state has made some small progress in moving chronically homeless singles and veterans into permanent housing, Gerrard said. But compared to 2009, there were more youths and adults in 2012 who had been homeless for at least one year or even three years.

The detailed findings also showed rising rates of homeless youths and adults with diagnosed mental and physical health conditions. The majority of homeless youth and adults also reported some form of abuse or trauma in their pasts. There was little change from 2009 to 2012 in homeless people with jobs. Twenty-four percent of homeless adults in 2012 reported they were employed, which was better than 20 percent in 2009 but considerably lower than 41 percent in 2000.


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