10 Things I Learned From the Homelessness in the Suburbs Compass Program - Nine North

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10 Things I Learned From the Homelessness in the Suburbs Compass Program


During one of our Compass Programs back in February, we talked with some community members about homelessness in the suburbs. Our compass programs focus on a wide range of topics that are affecting our community. 


This program was full of community experts here to talk about the problem of homelessness. On this particular compass program we were joined by Kathy Ramundt, co-founder of Do Good Roseville; Michael Stanefski, lead social worker for the Roseville School District; and Michelle Gerrard, senior research manager at Wilder Research and director of the Minnesota Homeless Study. 


Here are 10 things I learned from this compass program.


1. “Back in 1991, we counted about a little over 3000 people experiencing homelessness in our state,” said Gerrard. “The last time we did this study back in October of 2018, it was over 11,000 people experiencing homelessness.”


The number of people who are homeless in Minnesota just keeps increasing every year. These numbers are also not taking into account those who may be temporarily homeless. 



2. “There are more children experiencing homelessness now than the entire homeless population when we first started,” Gerrard said. 


According to the MN Homeless Study, almost 25% of adults who are homeless were homeless when they were children. Not only is this cycle never-ending but the study also showed that those who experience childhood trauma have a higher chance of homelessness during adulthood. 



3. “We’re all, you know, one paycheck or one layoff away,” said Gerrard.


The average income for people who are experiencing homelessness is close to $550 per month while the average rent is close to $950 per month. In fact, the study shows that a lot of homeless people are working but they cannot always get a full-time job. This forces them to work multiple jobs that are paying a low unlivable wage and they still cannot afford everything they need to live comfortably. 



4. “Many of those low wage jobs were impacted by the pandemic… so where you maybe had just barely enough to keep your head kind of at the top above water. Now, so many families are having a hard time even doing that,” said Stanefski.


Without the ability to make a livable wage and live in affordable housing people who are homeless are already struggling. Now having to juggle the lack of work, distance education and childcare on top of making minimum wage during a pandemic. It is no surprise that homelessness is a recurring issue for a lot of people.



5. “Those families who are doubled up, or couch hopping, or in an emergency shelter, or in a transitional shelter, or even unaccompanied youth who’ve been abandoned by their parents… [or] are living in their car,” Stanefski said. 


Homelessness in youth can look a lot different than it does in adults. Students living out of their car or staying with different friends is a lot more common than sleeping in a shelter or in encampments in the city like you typically see with adults and families. 



6. “It’s important to remember that homelessness, isn’t just a big city problem,” said Stanefski. 


Homelessness in the suburbs and in rural areas can look different than it does in big cities like Minneapolis and St. Paul. Just because you don’t see as many homeless people in your community does not mean that they are not there. 



7. “About a third of our homeless women have experienced domestic violence,” Gerrard said.


The causes of homelessness that are out of people’s hands are alarming to me. This fact about domestic violence and the number of people who are homeless due to physical or mental health is alarming. 



8. “If you have housing, then you can work on your other issues that you might be experiencing,” said Gerrard.


Something as necessary as housing can not only provide a person with security, it gives them time to get better, healthier and more financially stable. Without affordable housing and the resources to find it the homelessness issue will never be solved. 



9. “If we can prevent homelessness, it breaks the cycle,” Gerrard said.


This cycle of homelessness can be prevented if it’s caught at the source. Gerrard mentions in the program that it starts with stabilizing families when they are on the edge of homelessness, not when they are in deep. She explains that this makes it easier on the impact of being homeless on the family as well as avoiding losing things like housing which can be hard to regain due to rent prices. 



10. “In the Roseville area, many, many, many churches have outreach [and] social justice programs [and] many of the churches offer community meals,” said Stanefski.


This is important to note for those who may be struggling with the possibility of being homeless or know someone who is. Churches in many other cities as well offer resources for those who need them. 



If you know anyone who is homeless and needs any sort of assistance, or if you need any services yourself there are loads of people and organizations who can help. Churches and schools are a great place to start. In fact, most schools have social workers who can provide you with any information you might need.


If you are interested in volunteering with the Minnesota Homeless Study in October head to their website to sign up and learn more about what you can do to help end homelessness in your community.