How Do We Help End Homelessness?

written by Greg Owen, HoC Board Member

I remember one of my first interviews with a homeless man in Minneapolis. He had been on the streets for a long time and his face told the story of the hard life he had lived. He did not smile much, gave one or two word answers to the survey questions, and reported a long list of health problems. But he wanted people to know his story and was eager to get the $5 in cash offered to survey participants so that he could buy some hot food when we were done. I remember feeling helpless to do much for this man at the time, but I hoped the survey information we were gathering as part of Wilder’s Statewide Homeless Study would raise awareness and lead to some solutions.
House of Charity works to address many of the problems faced by those trapped in a world of homelessness by providing food, housing and an opportunity to access addiction treatment. And one of the most powerful tools we have is the housing we provide. We know that safe and supportive housing makes a difference.
In a three-year follow-up study of 581 adults in 51 supportive housing programs across Minnesota, Wilder researchers found that:

  • Supportive housing serves residents with serious disabilities and other barriers to self-sufficiency including long-term and chronic homelessness.
    The supportive housing service models help connect residents to mainstream benefits that can help provide long-term stability.
  • Program participants make measurable gains in their ability to respond to challenges, budget money, receive support from others, stay focused, and remain hopeful about the future.
  • Half of all participants report that their mental health status improved after entering supportive housing.
  • More than three-quarters of all participants who left supportive housing programs during the study period exited to some form of permanent housing.

This study tell us that we are on the right track with our work at House of Charity and that stable housing is the bedrock required for a more stable and healthy future. It also tells us that we can make a difference if we are persistent in our goal to increase the availability of this kind of housing as we are now doing with the Park 7 Project. Let us all commit to continuing this work together to help define a better future for those who come to our doors.
Wilder’s next Statewide Homeless Study happens on October 25 this year. If you are interested in being a volunteer survey interviewer, call Karen Ulstad at 651-280-2690 or Chris Lindberg at 651-280-2728