Every three years, Wilder Research conducts a one-night statewide survey of homeless people in Minnesota to better understand the prevalence, causes, circumstances, and effects of homelessness. The most recent study was conducted on October 22, 2015.

As part of this study, Wilder Research analyzed a subset of the overall population:
adults age 55 and over.

Older adults are one of the fastest-growing groups of people experiencing homelessness.

After an increase of 48 percent from 2009 to 2012, the number of homeless adults age 55 and older increased 8 percent from 2012. The largest increase occurred in Twin Cities metro area emergency shelters, where the number of homeless older adults increased by 21 percent since 2012.

However, the growth in the number of homeless older adults is similar to the growth of this age group in the overall Minnesota population. It is also important to note that adults age 55 and older make up just 9 percent of the total 2015 homeless population.

Key Findings

  • Nearly all homeless older adults are under age 75. The average age of homeless older adults is 60, compared to 67 for Minnesota older adults in general. Almost three-quarters (74%) of homeless older adults are in the 55-61 age category, compared to 35 percent of the Minnesota older adult population.
  • The increasing number of homeless older adults with complex health conditions is cause for concern. Seventy-one percent of homeless older adults have a chronic physical health condition, 49 percent have a serious mental illness, and 24 percent have a substance abuse disorder. Sixteen percent report all three: chronic physical health condition, mental illness, and substance abuse disorder.
  • People of color make up half of homeless older adults; racial disparities are severe. Compared to their representation in the overall Minnesota population, African American and American Indian older adults are more likely to be homeless than other racial or ethnic groups. African Americans are 2 percent of Minnesota adults age 55 and older, but make up a third of homeless older adults; American Indians are less than 1 percent of all Minnesota adults age 55 and older, and 7 percent of homeless older adults.
  • Nearly half of homeless older adults did not become homeless until they were age 50 or older.
    Forty-five percent of homeless older adults did not become homeless until they were age 50 or older. At the time of the survey, three in 10 homeless older adults were experiencing homelessness for the first time.

Read the full report: Homeless Older Adults in Minnesota 2015 (pdf)

Wilder Research's Greg Owen discussed proposed health care changes and homeless seniors on tpt's Almanac on July 21, 2017.