Homeless families in Minnesota: A view from the shelter

Leslie Frost got one of our MPR News queries recently asking about her economic situation. She wanted to talk instead about the economic pain she witnesses daily at Families Moving Forward, a small nonprofit family homeless shelter she runs in the Twin Cities.

Frost, one of our Public Insight Network sources, says circumstances for homeless families are the worst she’s seen in 17 years of work. She wrote:

Someone asked me the other day if the families that we are seeing at Families Moving Forward are different now than they have been in the past. The answer is no, they’re the same, but there are so many more of them…We get 300 calls/month now. Two years ago we got 50 calls/month.

The same reasons apply now: lost job, ran out of money, couch-hopped for awhile, wore out our welcome at all those places, finally ran out of options, called for shelter, But now, there are new reasons: landlord ran out of money, quit paying the water bill, couch-hopped, applied to new landlord, got turned down because current landlord isn’t answering his phone to provide a rental reference.

Also, rented a place for a year, paid damage deposit, things started running downhill, heat got turned off, called City for help, Housing Inspector came out, verified no heat, could not get in touch with landlord, came back and placarded the building as uninhabitable, told us we had three days to leave. In neither case, did the family get back the damage deposit or the rent that was unearned. The same thing happens to families whose utilities stay on, but get evicted by the sheriff, on behalf of the bank, in foreclosure.

On a typical night in Minnesota, about 600 children are homeless, according to data collected by the St. Paul-based Wilder Foundation. The group’s last survey came in 2006, when times were relatively good. This year’s survey is likely to draw a bleaker picture.

Got a story about the economy around you? Share it with MPR News. We’re mapping the responses in hopes of getting a broader picture of economic life in Minnesota. Below are some stories of the current job climate.

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