State releases new plan to prevent and end homelessness

State leaders unveiled a new plan to end homelessness today with two major goals — ending homelessness among families, children and youth by 2020 and housing all veterans and the chronically homeless by 2015.

The Minnesota Interagency Council on Homelessness — a group of 11 state agencies — collaborated on the plan called Heading Home: Minnesota’s Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.

The group will also be awarding grants for an initiative aimed at helping families with school-aged children get access to rental assistance and supportive services for up to 24 months. The project’s goal is to keep children at the same school for the academic year to improve attendance rates and academic performance.

While the overall goal is to prevent and end homelessness for all people in Minnesota, the top two priorities initially will be focused on housing families with children, youth, veterans and the chronically homeless.

More than 10,000 adults, teens and children are homeless in the state and another 248,000 people are spending more than half of their income on housing, according to the Heading Home plan.

Some of the highlights of the two-year action plan include: increasing investments in affordable housing and rental assistance; expanding supportive housing; working with corrections to help offenders find stable housing when they are released; and helping homeless students and their families get connected to services.

Daniel Gumnit, president and CEO of downtown-based People Serving People, the region’s largest family focused homeless shelter, praised the goals outlined in the plan. He noted that 10 percent of Minneapolis Public School students are homeless. 

“While largely invisible to many of us, homeless children with families represent the fastest growing homeless trend in the state,” he said. “If we’re going to get serious about ending the cycle of homelessness and poverty in Minnesota, we have to focus on the kids.” 

State Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Mpls) said he looks forward to working with community leaders around the state to see the plan put into action.

“Preventing and ending homelessness matters to Minnesota’s future,” he said. “… We must also consider the future financial health of our community. Homelessness is expensive. By turning expenditures on homelessness to investments in housing stability, we can both advance the well-being of Minnesotans and maximize the value of public investments in housing.”