Frey Foundation collaborates to end homelessness

On a cool October night in 2009, 1,000 Wilder Research volunteers counted 9,654 adults, youth and children staying in shelters, transitional housing, encampments and abandoned buildings. This was a 25-percent jump over 2006. The dramatic increase followed two reporting periods, in 2003 and 2006, when the homeless population held steady. Based on these findings, Wilder estimates the number of homeless people in Minnesota to be at least 13,100 each night. Notably, 34 percent of the homeless are children with their parents. The number of young adults ages 18 to 21 jumped 57 percent from the 2006 report and accounts for 11 percent of the homeless. Fifty-two percent of adults have been homeless for at least one year; this compares to 36 percent in 2000. In an aggressive effort to turn the tide on distressing statistics such as these, a working group of the State Legislature launched “Minnesota’s Business Plan to End Long-Term Homelessness” in 2004. The plan includes a focus on increasing the number of permanent, affordable housing units, but this is not enough. The solution extends beyond bricks and mortar. “A family can move from a shelter or precarious living situation into decent housing, and the same issues will follow them – poor mental health, chemical dependency, domestic abuse, lack of a high school education, no employment,” says Jim Frey, president of the Frey Foundation. “It’s extremely difficult for people to get chemical dependency and mental health issues under control, for example, when their lives are in complete chaos, constantly moving among temporary living arrangements. Once living situations are stabilized, people need supportive services to help them overcome the underlying issues that led to their homelessness.” Assistance can include mental health services, job training, childcare and related services. Supportive housing communities offer these on site to residents. With public and corporate dollars focused on building and rehabilitating housing units as outlined in the legislative plan, the Frey Foundation saw an opportunity to fill a funding need. In 2006, the foundation granted $5 million to address homelessness, primarily funding 15 nonprofits with proven success in stabilizing the lives of individuals and families as they transitioned to permanent housing. Many organizations used grant monies to leverage additional funding, particularly from individual donors. As the recession slowed progress toward the end-homelessness goal, the foundation committed an additional $5 million to the effort in 2010. As another component to the homelessness work, Frey joined with a small group of affordable housing advocates to help create Heading Home Minnesota, a collaborative effort amongst the public, business, faith, nonprofit and philanthropic sectors modeled after the coordinated partnerships of Heading Home Hennepin. Heading Home Minnesota is now an umbrella for 10 regional initiatives throughout the state working to: increase the number of supportive housing units; prevent homelessness through stop-gap rental assistance and, for those leaving foster care, treatment or correctional facilities, a discharge support plan; and coordinate outreach to homeless youth and adults as the first step leading to housing. GF


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