Every three years, Wilder Research partners with tribal housing representatives to conduct a survey of people experiencing homelessness on reservations. The most recent study was conducted during the week of October 22, 2015.

This is a study of homelessness and near-homelessness on six of Minnesota’s American Indian reservations. Six of Minnesota’s American Indian reservations participated in the 2015 study, all of which are Ojibwe — Bois Forte, Fond du Lac, Leech Lake, Mille Lacs, Red Lake, and White Earth.

This study includes people experiencing near-homelessness. Unlike our statewide study, the reservation study interviews both those who are literally homeless and those experiencing near-homelessness—people who are temporarily “doubled up” with friends or family because they have no other housing. We believe this is the most accurate way to capture the challenges of homelessness on reservations, as many of these people would be literally homeless if not for their family and friends.

These numbers serve as a minimum count of those experiencing homelessness and near-homelessness on participating reservations. It is difficult to find people not using shelter or services in a time- and resource-limited study that takes place across a large rural geographic area.

Our data practices respect tribal sovereignty. Wilder Research honors tribal sovereignty and the rights of each tribe to determine if and how their study results and data about their tribal members are used. Each tribe is the sole owner of its own data, and Wilder Research provides support to the tribes to use the data for policy and planning purposes. Each participating tribe’s governing body has approved participation in the study and dissemination of the results. In accordance with these agreements, Wilder Research only reports aggregate data for the six participating tribes.

Key Findings

  • Doubling up is a long-term solution. Seventy-six percent of those experiencing near-homelessness have been doubled up for one year or more. Though doubling up is common, it is not a preference. Consistent with previous years, the 2015 results show that 97 percent of respondents experiencing near-homelessness would prefer their own housing, if only they could find and afford it.
  • Transportation is a major barrier to obtaining employment and accessing vital services such as medical treatment. Only 11 percent of reservation respondents reported receiving transportation assistance in the past month, compared with 32 percent of respondents experiencing homelessness in other parts of greater Minnesota.
  • Employment rates have decreased since 2009. Seventy-seven percent of those interviewed were unemployed. About 56 percent of those unemployed had been without work for more than one year. Sixty-four percent of people who were unemployed were looking for work, but a major barrier was transportation (60%). Those experiencing homelessness in the rest of Minnesota were twice as likely to be employed full time as reservation respondents.
  • Sixty percent of young adults interviewed lacked a high school diploma or GED. Education was a key challenge for young adults: 60 percent of young adults interviewed (age 19-24) were without a high school diploma or GED, compared to 39 percent elsewhere in greater Minnesota. Likewise, the employment rate was lower for young adults on reservations than in other areas of greater Minnesota: only 23 percent of young adults (age 19-24) interviewed on reservations were employed, compared to 36 percent in greater Minnesota.

Read the full report: Homelessness and Near-Homelessness on Six Minnesota American Indian Reservations: Findings from the 2015 Study (pdf)

Wilder Research’s Nicole MartinRogers and Red Lake Homeless Shelter’s Jordan May discussed the 2015 study on Almanac on April 21, 2017.

Reservation study results

Statewide study fact sheets

Related publications

Tribal Housing Partners

Bois Forte Band of Chippewa
Pamela Hughes, Chemical Dependency/New Moon Program Director
218-753-2347, phughes@boisforte-nsn.gov

Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
Contact pending

Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe
Sharon Northbird, Homeless Programs, Leech Lake Housing Authority
218-335-8267, Northbirds@midconetwork.com

Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe
Tammy Moreland, Wraparound Coordinator, Department of Community Support Services
320-292-1942, Tammy.Moreland@HHS.millelacsband-nsn.gov

Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians
Jordan May, Interim Executive Director, Red Lake Homeless Shelter
218-679-3228, Jordanmay@Redlakenation.org

White Earth Band of Ojibwe
Kristi Dawes, Homeless Housing Coordinator
218-935-5554 x3263, kristi.dawes@whiteearth-nsn.gov

One of the key groups addressing these challenges is the Minnesota Tribal Collaborative to Prevent and End Homelessness, which consists of members from five of the tribes participating in this study: Bois Forte, Leech Lake, Mille Lacs, Red Lake, and White Earth. Collaborative members meet regularly to share ideas, learn about new resources, apply for funding, and advocate for state-level changes to better address homelessness in their communities.

Wilder Research Project Staff

Nicole MartinRogers
651-280-2682, nicole.martinrogers@wilder.org

Sarah Gehrig
651-280-2718, sarah.gehrig@wilder.org