Homelessness

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Why This Is Important

All people deserve safe, decent and affordable housing. When families, single adults and youths lose their housing, it destabilizes their lives. Their health suffers, they do worse in school, and they have a harder time getting and keeping a job. The costs go beyond personal crises. People who are experiencing homelessness use emergency services more often, turn to government and nonprofit agencies for shelter and food, and the final cost to society is often more than if they had remained housed.

What's Being Done

Heading Home Hennepin focuses on ending all homelessness in the county (including Minneapolis) by 2016. Many of the efforts of Heading Home Hennepin work in coordination with the state's Business Plan to End Long-Term Homelessness. In particular, outreach efforts and permanent supportive housing options target people who are homeless over the long term. With funding from the City of Minneapolis, a street outreach project provides a social service response to people who are visibly homeless in the downtown business district. Staff respond to calls from residents reducing the need for a police intervention. In the first year, the outreach team housed 43 people directly from the streets and helped reduce arrests of people who are homeless in downtown Minneapolis by 14 percent.

About This Measure

The number of homeless in Hennepin County reported in this chart comes from the Wilder Research Center triannual survey of homelessness in the state. It surveys emergency shelters, battered women's shelters and transitional housing, and attempts to count those sleeping on the streets. More than half the adults surveyed reported a serious mental illness and almost half said they had spent time in an in-patient drug or alcohol treatment facility. The survey somewhat over-represents people who are homeless for a long time. In the survey, almost half said that they had been homeless for more than one year.

A homeless person is anyone who lacks a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence and either:

  • has a primary nighttime residence that is a supervised, publicly or privately operated temporary living accommodation, including emergency shelters, transitional housing, and battered women's shelters or
  • has a nighttime residence in any place not meant for human habitation, such as under bridges or in cars.

This is based on the definition established by the U.S. Congress. In a different section of law, this definition is expanded for youths age 17 or younger to include those who are staying temporarily in other people's homes, with or without their parents, because they have nowhere else to live.

Last updated Feb 23, 2012

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