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2018 Minnesota Homeless Study: Initial Findings from Face-to-face Interviews


St. Paul, MN (May 15, 2019) – After completing nearly 4,300 interviews with people experiencing homelessness, Wilder Research released its initial analysis, Characteristics and Trends Among Minnesota’s Homeless Population: Initial findings from face-to-face interviews.

2018 survey data from interviews show that:

Availability of affordable housing is still a critical issue.

The most common reasons adults (18 or older) left their last housing was because they were evicted (39%), they could not afford their housing (38%), or they lost their job or had their hours cut (31%). Over half (56%) of those experiencing homelessness said they had difficulty finding housing because there was nothing they could afford.

More of the homeless population is staying outside of a formal shelter setting.

27% of adults experiencing homelessness spent more than a week out of the past month staying outside (compared to 18% in 2015). In addition, 17% spent more than a week doubled up (16% in 2015). 32% have been turned away from a shelter in the last 3 months due to lack of space, 50% are on a subsidized housing waiting list, and for those on the waiting list, 12 months is the average time they have been waiting.

African Americans, American Indians, and youth who identify as LGBTQ are particularly over-represented among the homeless population.

Generational impacts of discriminatory housing policies and other systemic inequities have contributed to the overrepresentation of people of color in the homeless population: 37% of people experiencing homelessness identify as black or African American and 12% identify as American Indian, compared to 5% who identify as black or African American and 1% who identify as American Indian in the total Minnesota population. There is also an overrepresentation of those who identify as LGBTQ in the homeless population: 22% of youth (age 24 and younger) and 10% of adults (age 18 and older) experiencing homelessness identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning (LGBTQ).

Nearly one-third of homeless adults are employed, the same as in the last study.

30% of homeless adults reported having some type of employment; 13% were employed full time. Since 2000, employment numbers in the Minnesota Homeless Study have dropped, reaching a low point toward the end of the Great Recession. Employment numbers increased to pre-Recession levels in 2015 and remained steady in 2018.

The majority of the homeless population has a chronic mental or physical health condition.

64% of adults and 64% of youth (age 24 and younger) experiencing homelessness have a serious mental illness, and 57% of adults (age 18 and older) have a physical health condition. The incidence of chronic mental illness and physical health conditions has increased within the homeless population since 2000. In addition, 58% of adults have a physical, mental, cognitive, or other health condition that limits the work they can do or their daily activities.

Homelessness is often preceded by adverse childhood experiences.

73% of adults experiencing homelessness and 84% of homeless youth (age 24 and younger) have had at least one adverse childhood experience, the term used to describe all types of abuse, neglect, and other potentially traumatic experiences. The most common adverse childhood experiences among people experiencing homelessness were having lived with someone who abused substances (52% adults, 61% youth) and witnessing the abuse of another family member (51% adults, 60% youth).

Violence and abuse often continue past childhood, especially among women experiencing homelessness.

Over half of homeless women had at least one experience with violence or exploitation (adults: 67%, youth: 57%), most often staying in an abusive situation because there were no other housing options. Trend data show that the percentage of women fleeing domestic violence has risen since 2009, with 37% fleeing domestic violence in the 2018 study.

“Shelter, affordable housing, and services are needed to address the needs of the homeless population. Our surveys of people experiencing homelessness show how complex the needs are across Minnesota, and solutions should not be one size fits all,” says Michelle Decker Gerrard, Wilder Research senior manager and study co-director.

What’s next?

Characteristics and Trends Among Minnesota’s Homeless Population: Initial findings from face-to-face interviews is the second in a series of reports about the 2018 Minnesota Homeless Study. A more detailed report of interview findings, along with total single night and annual estimates of Minnesota’s homeless population, is scheduled to be released in fall 2019. Throughout the next year, Wilder Research staff will also 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, and other populations.

For past reports, including the recently released Single Night Count of People Experiencing Homelessness

2018 Minnesota Homeless Study Fact Sheet, visit Additional reports will be posted to this site as they become available, as well as a complete set of data tables for every question in the survey, broken out by gender, shelter type, and region

The fact sheet is available at

The Minnesota Homeless Study is an independent initiative of Wilder Research in partnership with public and private funders and in-kind support from service providers throughout the state. Beginning in 1991, Wilder has conducted the statewide survey to gather data that will help us better understand the prevalence, causes, circumstances, and effects of homelessness in Minnesota.

Wilder Research, an independent research unit of the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, is a nationally respected nonprofit research and evaluation group. For more than 100 years, Wilder Research has worked with community leaders, nonprofits, foundations, and government entities to gather and interpret facts and trends that get at the core of community concerns, uncover issues that are overlooked or poorly understood, and help families and communities thrive.


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