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. As part of this study, Wilder Research analyzed a subset of the overall population: older adults experiencing homelessness.

The issues facing the aging population in general exist for older adults who are homeless, but are magnified due to the difficult circumstances and conditions associated with being homeless.

Older adult homelessness increased 25% from 2015 to 2018.

The increase in homelessness among adults age 55 and older is substantially greater than the increase in this age group in Minnesota overall (8%). 1,054 homeless adults age 55 and older were counted in the 2018 study -- the largest number of older adults identified since we began tracking these data in 2009.

  • Adults age 55 and older make up 10% of the total 2018 homeless population, compared to 29% in the overall population in Minnesota.
  • Older adults are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population, even though they are also the age group least likely to experience homelessness.

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The number of older adults experiencing homelessness who were not in a formal shelter increased considerably.

  • 27% of older adults experiencing homelessness were not in a formal shelter (i.e., outside or temporarily doubled up), including 46% of those in greater Minnesota and 21% in the Twin Cities metro area.
  • The number of older adults not in a formal shelter increased 58% between 2015 and 2018.

The increasing number of homeless older adults with complex health conditions is cause for concern.

  • 75% of homeless older adults have a chronic physical health condition, 54% have a serious mental illness, and 21% have a substance abuse disorder.
  • 90% reported that a disability limits their ability to work or complete activities of daily living (such as eating, bathing, and dressing), and 38% said a cognitive issue affects activities of daily living.

People of color make up half of homeless older adults; they are overrepresented in Minnesota's homeless population.

Older adults experiencing homelessness were most likely to identify as white (42%) or African American (35%). People identifying as African American or American Indian are notably overrepresented in the homeless population, including homeless older adults (age 55+).

  • 35% of those interviewed identified as African American (compared to 3% of the Minnesota older adult population) and 8% identified as American Indian (compared to 1% of the Minnesota older adult population). These numbers do not include results from interviews conducted in partnership with six of Minnesota’s Native American tribes.
  • These disparities also exist within the homeless population as a whole. Racist and discriminatory economic and housing policies, along with generational poverty, continue to play a role in the overrepresentation of African American and American Indian people in the homeless population.

Older adults face multiple barriers to finding and keeping stable housing, including age, income, and difficult backgrounds.

  • 48% of homeless older adults did not become homeless until they were age 50 or older; 3 in 10 were experiencing homelessness for the first time.
  • 49% of older adults said their main barrier to obtaining permanent housing was a lack of affordable housing. With a median monthly income of $750, affordable housing remains out of reach for most homeless older adults.
  • Most rely on public benefits—70% listed General Assistance, Social Security, Social Security Disability Insurance, or Supplemental Security Income as their main source of income. Food supports (hot meal programs and food stamps) were the most commonly used forms of assistance.
  • The most common reasons for losing their last permanent housing were: eviction or a lease that was not renewed (42%), not being able to afford the rent (39%), or having their job or hours cut (29%).
  • 53% of homeless older adults reported that they had been incarcerated at some time in their lives; 26% said that a criminal background had made it difficult for them to get or keep housing.
  • 49% of older adults experiencing homelessness had lived in an alcohol or drug treatment facility.