Every three years, Wilder Research conducts a one-day statewide study to better understand the prevalence of homelessness in Minnesota, as well as the circumstances of those experiencing homelessness.

The most recent study took place on October 25, 2018, and included two components that captured information on that date:

  1. Face-to-face interviews with people throughout the state who meet a federal definition of homelessness.
  2. A count of people experiencing homelessness. Because point-in-time counts and surveys can never completely include all people experiencing homelessness, especially those not using shelters, the numbers represented in the study should be considered a minimum.

Characteristics and trends among Minnesota's homeless population

Wilder Research and its partners conducted 4,279 face-to-face interviews with adults and unaccompanied youth in emergency shelters, domestic violence shelters, transitional housing, and in non-shelter locations such as encampments, hot-meal programs, and other drop-in service sites.

Findings from interviews show:

  • Availability of affordable housing is still a critical issue.
  • More of the homeless population is staying outside of a formal shelter setting.
  • African Americans, American Indians, and youth who identify as LGBTQ are particularly over-represented among the homeless population.
  • Nearly one-third of homeless adults are employed, the same as in the last study.
  • The majority of the homeless population has a chronic mental or physical health condition.
  • Homelessness is often preceded by adverse childhood experiences.
  • Violence and abuse often continue past childhood, especially among women experiencing homelessness.

Read the Characteristics and Trends among Minnesota’s Homeless Population Fact Sheet (pdf)

Single night count of people experiencing homelessness

On October 25, 2018, Wilder Research counted 10,233 people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota.

The number of people experiencing homelessness is up 10% from 2015.

One-night study counts of the Minnesota Homeless Population, 1991-2018. This graph shows two trend lines. One trend shows the total number of people counted, which most recently increased from 9,312 in 2015 to 10,233 in 2018. The other trend shows the count of children with parents, which held steady from 3,296 in 2015 to 3,265 in 2018.

Read the Single Night Count of People Experiencing Homelessness Fact Sheet (pdf)
Explore the count data tables

Overall, the number of children and youth age 24 and younger experiencing homelessness remained steady.

  • Together, children and unaccompanied youth (age 24 and younger) make up nearly half of those experiencing homelessness (46%).
  • Since 2015, there was a 1% decrease in the number of children homeless with their parents.
  • There was a 1% increase in the number of homeless youth (age 24 and younger) on their own (without their parents).
  • While their numbers remained steady, children and youth are the most disproportionally affected by homelessness (relative to their population in Minnesota).

A pie graph shows homelessness in Minnesota by age group. From youngest to oldest age group, the percentage of the population experiencing homelessness includes: 32% children age 17 or younger with parents, 15% unaccompanied youth age 24 and younger, 43% adults age 25-54, and 10% older adults age 55+.

The number of adults, especially older adults, has increased considerably since 2015.

  • Older adults make up 10% of the homeless population in Minnesota.
  • While, proportionally, older adults (55 and older) make up the smallest age group of those experiencing homelessness, they saw the biggest increase in homelessness (up 25% from 2015).
  • Similarly, the number of homeless adults age 25-54 is up 20%.

Between 2015 and 2018, there was a considerable increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness who were not in a formal shelter.

Most people who were interviewed in outreach locations had spent time staying in a variety of locations throughout the month of the study. The majority of these were in unsheltered locations such as encampments, in their cars, or riding public transportation. Many piece together night-to-night accommodations, which may include staying with others doubled-up or couch hopping.

It is impossible to identify all people experiencing homelessness who are not in a formal shelter. These numbers can be impacted by variations in outreach efforts and the visibility of the population. The 2018 study was conducted in conjunction with increased visibility of people staying in encampments and on public transportation. In addition, there were homeless outreach events conducted throughout the state that also allowed access to those not staying in shelter.

  • In the 2018 study, 26% of people experiencing homelessness were not in a formal shelter.
  • The number of people not in a formal shelter increased 62% between 2015 and 2018.

This trend line displays the number of people not in a formal shelter (outside or doubled up), from 2009-2018. The numbers range from 2,257 in 2009 to 2,694 in 2018.

Homelessness increased across Minnesota.

  • Overall, in both the 7-county Twin Cities metro area (up 9%) and greater Minnesota (up 13%), there were more people experiencing homelessness in 2018 compared to 2015.
  • This was especially evident in the population not in a formal shelter, which was up 93% in the Twin Cities metro and up 36% in greater Minnesota.
  • The distribution of the homeless population between the Twin Cities metro (66%) and greater Minnesota (34%) is similar to the distribution found in the 2015 study.

What’s next?

In the next year, Wilder Research will publish a report about interviews conducted in partnership with six of Minnesota’s Native American tribes, as well as specialized reports related to homelessness among older adults, youth, Veterans, people who identify as LGBTQ, and other populations.