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Conference: Facing Forward Together

A survey last year in Minnesota found that more than 9,300 people are considered homeless, and many are families and the elderly. (Veronica Carter)
A survey last year in Minnesota found that more than 9,300 people are considered homeless, and many are families and the elderly. (Veronica Carter)
October 13, 2016

ROCHESTER, Minn. — Hundreds of people who work to make sure every Minnesotan has a safe, affordable place to call home came together this week in Rochester. The "Facing Forward Together” conference, sponsored by the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless, wraps up Thursday.

According to the Minnesota Housing Partnership, since 2000 rent prices have gone up by six percent, but income has dropped by 16 percent when adjusted for inflation. Anne Krisnik, executive director of the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition, said that gap has left a lot of families and elderly people on the brink of homelessness.

"We haven't made additional investment in families for 30 years,” Kisnik said. “So, for those families at the bottom that are really struggling – you know, these are families who can't buy cough syrup when their kids are sick, and whose children may only have a couple pairs of socks and may not have winter boots."

Minnesota's Welfare to Work Program hasn't seen a funding increase since 1986. A family of three can qualify for a maximum of up to $532 a month in assistance.

The 2016 legislative session ended without a tax or bonding bill to expand the Working Family Credit or to invest in affordable housing. Krisnik said advocates will be back before lawmakers in January to ask again. She said policy changes need to be made to move people out of poverty.

"Part of that is making more affordable housing available so people aren't homeless because they can't find a place to live,” Krisnik said. “And part of it is a recognition that we have people that are never going to be gainfully employed because they have mental health issues or other challenges."

A Minnesota Homeless Study found that more than 9,300 people were homeless last year. More than 60 percent of Minnesota's homeless are people of color or American Indians.

Krisnik said one of the more alarming statistics is the number of elderly residents who are homeless. A report by the Wilder Foundation found that the number of Minnesota homeless between ages 55 and 80 rose nearly 45 percent from 2012 to 2015.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MN