Suburbia’s Growing Homelessness Problem

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Homelessness is not just an urban problem, as some Twin Cities suburban counties report a striking surge in the number of people without a place to live.

While the homeless population this year is down in Ramsey County, other east metro suburban counties such as Dakota, Anoka and Washington are reporting growth, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported Tuesday.

In Dakota County, homelessness rose 27 percent this year compared with 2009. Anoka County reports a 31 percent increase while Washington County saw an 11 percent rise.

For the second year in a row, Dakota County has increased the bed-count at Cochran House, a men’s shelter in Hastings. The shelter now has room for 65 men after the county increased its bed-count 55 percent this month to meet growing demand.

“A lot of people — when the economy was at its worst — went on unemployment,” said Dennis Price, supervisor of housing and resource development at Dakota County.

“Now that is running out,” Price said. “Our people aren’t getting back on their feet yet.”

The Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, which surveys Minnesota’s homeless every three years, counted 9,654 homeless adults and children statewide in October 2009. That’s a 25 percent jump from 2006.

“There’s a large variation — a range of folks and their characteristics — who are using shelters today,” said Greg Owen, consulting scientist at the Wilder Foundation, a St. Paul-based nonprofit.

While many blame the state’s increase in homelessness on high unemployment and a lack of affordable housing, the Wilder Foundation study also shows that health issues, criminal pasts and addiction continue to be major factors.

For the past three years, homelessness has risen in Anoka County’s suburbs. An annual count Jan. 26 found 1,461 men, women, and children without homes throughout the county — a 31 percent increase from 2009, according to its Point in Time study.

“Our suburban homelessness looks different,” said Karrie Schaaf, youth development director for the Emma B. Howe YMCA in Coon Rapids. Unlike many metro areas, Schaaf said, the suburban homeless are “hidden rather than sleeping on the street corner.”

But there is a bright spot in the figures. Anoka County reported a 58 percent drop among homeless youth 17 or younger. Officials credit that decline to efforts in the schools to raise awareness about the problem, Schaaf said.

In Dakota County, the latest count Jan. 26 of homelessness reported 841 individuals, said Marsha Milgrom, the county’s resource developer and contract manager. Eighty people had not had a home for more than a year or were homeless at least three times in the past four years. Such long-term homelessness rose 54 percent from 2009.

Nickolas Conrad fits the long-term homeless profile. Since July, the 40-year-old has lived in a four-person dorm room at Cochran House, the men’s shelter in Hastings.

Conrad has struggled with alcohol and drug addiction since he was 15. The former St. Paul man became homeless in 2001 and eventually found himself at the Cochran House after finishing a drug and alcohol program. This month, Conrad celebrated a year of sobriety — his longest stretch ever. He credits being at the shelter, which does not allow drugs or alcohol, with helping him stay sober.

“I guess the bottom line is, I believe if it wasn’t for this shelter — I’d be in prison or dead,” he said. “I look at this place as a blessing. They’re really helping me with self-esteem by having a place to lay my head, and the confidence that I’ll have a place to lay tomorrow.”


(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • rj

    A little compassion, please. Are you so arrogant to think that you could not be displaced from your job or have a health issue that eats up your savings?

    • MNTP

      I’m tired of paying taxes for losers who can’t hold down a job. Why should I be penalized for some one else’s incompetance? Welfare and unemployment are just socialist bribes to buy votes for the democRATs and their liberal atheist agenda. America is about Liberty and Freedom to succeed, not handouts and entitlements for failures and parasites.

      • Tink

        Michelle, is that you?

        • MNTP

          Laugh now, Comrade. When Michelle Bachmann and the Tea Party take control in 2013, there are going to be some changes you won’t like.

          • Tink

            Unfortunately, “freedom” means you have to put up with greedy, selfish, ignorant people too. Bring on the teabaggers!

            • Gary Lee

              Democracy is based upon each of us compromising somewhat to accept when our opinion is in the minority to go along with the laws as passed by our legally elected representatives. Howver, it seems that for the past few decades whichever group loses the election doesn’t turn to organizing and explaining to their fellow citizens why their point of view is better, that is to convincing others, but rather to screaming about un-American attitudes, secret conspiracies, one or another shadowy secret organizations, and in general claiming they would have won by a landslide if the election had been fair.

              So, when did we lose our ability to work together as a country and become more fractured than Libya? And how do we start to act like a country again, rather than a bunch of sore losers?

              • Todd

                Good point Gary Lee.

          • Todd

            Yeah, that will be great. When Bachmann gets in she will eliminate the minimum wage and then destroy the unions and we can all work for $3 an hour and have no recourse and the rich will just have it all. But they won’t have to pay taxes, oh no thats for poor people, the rich toss pennies at us and we should be happy to have it, huh MNTP?

            • MNTP

              Keep your filthy socialist fingers out of my pocket, Todd. If you want to live well, you need to work. In Michelle Bachmann’s America, those who succeed wll be rewarded. That is what Liberty and Freedom are all about. Too bad the union atheist liberal teachers in your pubilc school didn’t teach you that.

              • Todd

                MNTP had a daddy that paid for private school, college and then bought a new car for her when she graduated. He forgot to teach her compassion (ever read the bible?) and caring for others in hard times. Or how to make it on her own I am sure.

                Karma is a *****, what goes around comes around.

                • MNTP

                  I fail to understand what compassion has to do with TAKING my hard earned money away and giving it to someone who did NOTHING to earn it. It sounds more like common thievery to me. You socialists fail to understand that your redistribution of wealth punishes success and rewards failure. If you want a nation of losers, this is the way forward.

              • Mark

                And by succeed you mean “be born wealthy or be the puppets of those who are.” After all, why pay a living wage to anyone you don’t have to. Also if the streets are full of dead people who cares, the rich with just use helicopters. “Let them eat cake,” Michelle Antoinette says. The rich get richer, the poor deserve to be wage slaves, they are just lazy anyway. It’s all the hard working Billionaires who are waited on hand and foot who suffer, not the poor people who work two jobs just to feed their families.

                • Mark

                  You’re right MNTP, there are so many jobs and opportunities it must be worthless nature of the common poverty stricken individual that causes them to dwell in such intolerable conditions. Yup, long term unemployment is not an issue. The recession is a myth and outsourcing of US jobs and wealth is not real. Congratulations America, things are actually awesome and all you have to do is want to pull yourself up with the bootstraps God gave you! Yeah, I’m the on packing twaddle, you’re Boggarting the stuff.

                • MNTP

                  Typical communist twaddle. Go sell it in Cuba, Fidel. It doesn’t work in the US.

              • Todd

                Hard earned money is not money that daddy gave you.

                • Tink

                  It is simply easier to demonize those who have less by calling them lazy instead of actually doing something to help them. I work with foster children. These kids have little or no chance to succeed if they age out of the system. They are more than likely going to become burdens on society because when they were children someone beat them and then we put them into a system that treats them like cattle. I propose that instead of stereotyping them, you actually reach out to them and be a mentor or even just a friend. It is easy to just say that someone should “pull themselves up by their boot straps”. However, when they don’t have any boots, that becomes pretty hard Do you realize that a large part of our population grew up in chaos that was not their fault. Your labeling of them out of ignorance, fear and anger is just as much a part of the problem as anything else. Where would you be had you been abused and grew up without someone you trusted to take care of you, make sure you were going to school and putting food on the table? I am not actually saying that some of the people are lazy, I am not that ignorant. But if you look at the masses of people using government safety nets, you will realize they are vets, people who have been abused, people down on their luck and the mentally and physically ill. I say, get out there and spend some time with them before you judge. Then get back into your SUV and continue to ruin the air they have to breathe (sorry, had to stick one in). Sleep well my fellow American.

                • MNTP

                  Todd, you shouldn’t be so envious of your betters. It isn’t becoming.

  • MN

    We have a Guy that stands on our street who holds a sign that says will work for food, When you offer him work he says NO he just want money!

  • V for Vendetta

    The “Owe”bama summer recovery tour keeps rolling along. How is the laser focus on jobs going? Don’t people realized the owners of the country are the Federal Reserve as “Federal” as Federal Express and the banksters. I am glad I left the USSA.

    • M B

      Oh? And where did you go? I suspect that where you went is more Socialist than we are…Canada? Yup. Europe? Yup? England? Japan? Australia? Yup, yup, yup.

      In the old days, people survived the economy tanking because we didn’t have huge property tax bills and large house payments. These days, we seem to be in an engineered payment debt cycle that is hard to escape. I try to have no debt, but the bills still keep coming. Very few of us could last long without a job these days and that’s really sad.

      • Bigger issues at hand

        Engineered debt cycle..M B I think you hit the nail on the head…..if you take a look at the fractional reserve banking system the very source of our money the federal reserve creates money out of thin air and loans it to the US goverment meaning our money is created at a debt. If everyone in America went to pay of their debt it would not be enough money for us to do this the money does not exsist. The only outcome of our centralized banking system is inflation, poverty and masses of people tied to mountains of debt working as wage slaves stuck as a cog in the machine. This is not a new issue Andrew Jackson won his presidency by promising to abolish the centralized bank of his time he was suceesful in doing so unfortunately it seems we look to far forward and forget to reflect on the past……

  • Olebones

    Where are these so called jobs the Repubicans would create if they were voted in?

  • Jon M

    Another bogus liberal story. The bigger the safety net, the more people will jump into it and use it like a trampoline. A few legitimately need the help, but most aren’t willing to take the steps they need to to get out of their situation. I know this is true first hand. And I also know that if you coddle and help people too much they will learn to be dependant rather than independant, as should be the goal. The government is growing the problem.

    • Todd

      There are a lot of working poor out there Jon. We have a person here who has two part time jobs so when she got cancer, she didn’t have insurance and she made too much money to get any assistance for her medical needs. Believe me, there are a lot of hard working folks who are poor. Not everyone can go to college or tech school and all the manufacturing jobs are long gone to China because our govt gives companies tax breaks to leave. The whole system is screwed up and the Repbublicans are not going to help things. The rich have had 9 years of tax breaks. Where are the jobs?

  • John

    Its a recession when THEY lose there jobs. Its a DE pression, when YOU lose yours.

    Hey, I have an idea! We could take just a Teeeny Tiny amount of the money that we bailed out the BIG banks with, and help out our own citizens? No?

    Love the heartless,compasionate conservitives, greeedy comments on here. It all comes back to you, you will remember it when your support systems fail.

    Vote Indy!

    • Todd

      Thank you John. You hit it right on the head.

  • JKB

    In a country as rich as we, there should be no one in this predicament! The government is right there to hand out money, food, clothing etc to other countries, and to hell with our own. Granted, there are some that being homeless is a choice, but for many it isnt. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be homeless and with children. I grew up in a town where in the past there we no homeless, other than the railroad tramps who chose the lifestyle. Now, we see these poor souls walking the streets, sitting in front of buildings and bumming whatever they can from people to get food. One thing that really irks me, is to see the number of so-called thrift shops operated by many organizations whose prices are too high for the needy to afford to buy at. AND that is what these shops were put in place to do, but arent. Today, those shops are catered by anyone that can afford the high prices. How do we expect anyone to be able to get off the ground, be productive again, if WE continue to place everyone we see as homeless, as scum of the earth? Many were once families that were doing well until the economy took a dump. Continue to feel you are so much better, and go along with your selfish, greedy, lack of sympathy and empathy, one day you may find yourself in the same situation!

    • Todd

      Amen JKB. I wish everyone had your attitude.

  • R

    See if you sing the same tune when you lose your job, lose your health insurance, have all of your savings eaten up with health and other issues, and then have the bank take your home.

    See if you don’t ask for a bit of understanding then.

    It is so easy to Preach Down, when you are safe, secure, warm, employed, good health insurance, a fat savings account.

    But unfortunately bad things happen to good people.
    When the unfortunate things happe, at least be understanding.

    • MNTP

      That’s a nice way of saying ” We’re going to force you to pay for someone else’s problem”. I didn’t create their problems and only criminal socialist democRATs want to make me pay for it. It is thievery disguised as “compassion”.

  • Sick&Tired

    You say you are sick of paying for losers who can’t hold down a job…well, the reality is many hard working people have found themselves out of work. And it is harder and harder to find a job that will actually pay the bills and allow someone to save money so that if they find themselves jobless again, they will have some financial cushion to fall back on. My Mom was laid off 2 times in one year; after losing her husband at the age of 45. She was a hardworking loyal employee who had a string of unforseeable event happen. In my entire life, she has never been without a job and has never been on any type of public assistance. When she lost her job the 2nd time, she almost lost her house and could have been homeless. Lets be realistic…this is just a sign of the times. I am not a liberal and I would love for the conservatives to come in and fix our government. However, conservatives are too busy pointing their hateful fingers at anyone in their line of sight instead actually doing something to help our economy.

    • MNTP

      So now its my fault that your mother didn’t study harder and make something of herself? Its my fault that she had to take a job that was subject to economic downturns? Oh, it isn’t? Then WHY AM I FORCED TO PAY FOR IT? Too bad about your mom. Maybe she should have planned ahead or worked harder. It is not my responsibilty.

      • GOD

        I am watching you and please recall that there before the grace me, go you.

      • Todd

        MNTP you have to be a lawyer, no one else is so uncaring and has no idea what real life is. Bachmann is supposed to be “Christian”? Are you kidding me. She preaches but she doesn’t follow anything that religion teaches us

      • Homeless person

        one day you will have to justify your reason to GOD…. & I sure hope you can… if not you are going to HELL

  • Homeless person

    MNTP you are allowed your opinion… but I dont agree with it

  • Megryan1

    MNTP- I am a strong conservative and I hate that our country is being run down, and I too hate that my hard earned tax money is going to people that don’t deserve it, but my fiance’ lost his job in heating and air conditioning a week before christmas in 2008. We was unemployed for just over a year because he was “too” qualified for every job he applied for. He finally found a good job with good health insurance. But while he was unemployed he burned through his savings and maxed out his credit cards. I barely make any money working my ass off, as I am young and cannot afford to go to school because I was not allowed much financial aid or any grants (seeing as how I am not a minority, nor was I teen mom so the gov’t won’t give me any grants because I don’t want to be a single mom… If i was I could go to school for free…. thanks to the Liberals) Anyways my point is… Times are hard and I totally agree with you that my hard earned money should not go to people who do not deserve it, like addicts… but learn to have some compassion. What you wrote was heartless… the people over in Japan right now… did nothing to deserve having their homes taken from them…. or a person who got injured in a car crash and can no longer work… a person who was laid off of work because of our economy…. thanks to the liberals… and yes i am going to say that it was there fault for all you liberals out there…. Clinton walked into a system that was set up already for him so our economy would thrive…. Clinton ran it to the ground, Bush walked into a hell hole and then had to deal with a mass terrorist attack his first year in office… I’d love to see how you liberals would have handled that with your lets just love everyone and not fight for our country attitudes…. anyways back on track…. learn to have some compassion, and if you feel that strongly about it then call your Governor- yeah i know it’s a long shot- but anyways make the laws change so the people who don’t deserve it, don’t get it… but believe it or not, there are some people out there who could use a little help, that are hard working people. SHOW SOME COMPASSION!!!!!! or as someone said in here…. you will have to answer to God when your time comes… and I hope and pray that he saves you and lets you enter Heaven.

    • Helen

      ummmmm….check your facts sweetheart….Clinton left a huge surplus.

    • Todd

      Start two wars and then cut taxes. That’s how you build a strong economy? Then make sure any contributor that wants to move his company off shore gets tax breaks to do so, along with all the manufacturing jobs. That’s how the Republicans built the America we have. If I remember right, Clinton fought for tarrifs on exports to make an even playing field for our businesses, Bush took them away because they shouldn’t have to pay taxes, they provide jobs…for the Chinese.

    • Al

      You can still gp to school. You can take out loans for college to help you get a better paying job. You don’t say how old you are. After age 25 you don’t have to go on your folks income anymore. So If your not making a decent wage then you would be elgible for help. Not to many can go to college for free. There are scholarships and grants out there to help. You need to help yourself not expect others to do it for you.
      If you check out the number of people who do go to college or trade schools are either out of work and are trying to get better educated to be able to support their families and themselves. It’s your so called Liberals who instituted the help for education. it’s you conservatives who want to take it away. Check it out.

      • Todd

        I did go to business school and worked two part time jobs to pay for it while I went. I have worked since I have been 15. But not everyone has, not to be mean, the intelligence to go to tech school or college. You have to have manufacturing jobs with decent wages, jobs that anyone can do and make enough to pay the rent, buy food, etc. Henry Ford once said, “I pay my workers a good wage so they can buy the product from the guy down the street and in turn he can buy my cars”. This option no longer exist in America. And even if you can go to school, there is no guarantee that you will get a good job. Then you will be stuck with more debt. I have a friend who is a journeyman plumber and he has been unemployed for over a year and the unemployment is running out. He does what he can to get by and he does, barely. Anyone can be homeless right now

    • Michele

      Megryan, I think you are a person of great compassion and heart, but you need to study your history. I didn’t even like Clinton, never did, but the economy was sound when he left. I’m not going to blame Bush for what came after … I remember the layoffs after 9/11. But I WILL blame both Clinton and Bush for letting the banks do as they pleased.

      I wish people in this country would stop saying “you liberals” and “you conservatives.” I’m the wife of a former military officer, and I’m a liberal. Come on, Megryan, you’re better than that.

  • konjokris

    @Megryan1 Your grammar and spelling is horrible, my 14 year old has better skills than you.
    @MNTP Go get laid and stop the blather, you are heartless and need to find something constructive to do. I work very hard and I am working hard so my son can go to a private school ,get into a good University and better his life. Nothing I have or have been given is taken for granted. I hope one day you fall from your huge ego and need help form the very system you hate. There may be some people who take advantage, but there are far more wealthy people who have beaten the system and got caught, look at Denny Hecker andTom Petters. The big payback for being slime balls, it could be you someday.
    I bet you are one of those church folk too. You’re nothing but a blowhard.

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