County recognized for preventing homelessness

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has recognized Hennepin County as a national leader in developing strategies to end homelessness.

The county was among three places in the country singled out by HUD for having effective programs to combat homelessness. The department also cited Montgomery County, Md., and the Mid-American Assistance Coalition in Kansas City in a recent report, &#8220Strategies for Preventing Homelessness.”

The communities found that interventions can be helpful in preventing homelessness - from helping families avoid pending evictions to teaching people how to manage budgets.

HUD also lauded Hennepin County officials for its Rapid Exit program, which works to match homeless families in shelters with other housing options. With the program, the county has shortened the average shelter stay from 60 to 30 days. Additionally, 88 percent of the formerly homeless families that have participated in the program have avoided returning to the shelters.

County and city officials recently launched a new Commission to End Homelessness - setting a goal to match everyone in need of a home with housing within the next 10 years.

A broad coalition of government, business, nonprofit and faith leaders are part of the 70-member commission, which met for the first time March 29. The group is working on a formal plan outlining how to end homelessness, which is expected to be finalized this summer.

Hennepin County shelters about 2,400 homeless people on any given night, according to Cathy ten Broeke, the city-county coordinator on homelessness issues. About another 400 people sleep on the streets.