Addressing homelessness in Olmsted County

(ABC 6 News) – The homeless population is an ongoing issue for Olmsted County, and while communities search for solutions a group from Rochester is coming together to collaborate with city leaders on how they can help.

The Housing Stability Team met with the Housing and Redevelopment Authority Board to provide an update on how they are addressing homelessness. The data they collected was eye-opening.

Conducted count from the Housing Stability Team

In both 2020 to 2021 the number of homeless people drastically decreased.

“We created programs at both The Creek and The 105 which increased shelter capacity, we also used CARES Act funding to expand the Warming Center capacity, you might recall it was originally 30 beds, went up to 43,” Olmsted County Associate Director of Housing Mary O’Neil said.

It didn’t last long, however, as those numbers spiked to 174 so far this year.

“It’s definitely far more people unsheltered than we have expected,” O’Neil said.

The Housing Stability Team isn’t the only group raising awareness about homelessness. The Zumbro Valley Medical Society kicked off its third year of the street medicine elective.

This allowed Mayo Clinic students to collaborate with local agencies already serving the homeless in Olmsted County.

“What this elective is for is introducing students to the unhoused community and helping them understand the resources that are available,” student Hanin Ali said.

Service professionals from The Landing, Salvation Army, and others were in attendance to share their knowledge with the students.

They broke off into groups and were given different scenarios. For example, how could they help someone coming to Rochester for medical reasons and then end up homeless.

“We wanted to give an opportunity for the students to kind of learn from each other and talk one on one with these community leaders because I think that’s been one of the most valuable experiences from my first year as a street medicine participant,” student Michelle Kim said.

This will allow students to learn ways to take healthcare out of a clinical setting to help underserved populations.

A skill set that will serve them well in their future professions.

“The most important takeaway for me is to understand how people end up where they are, and also understand my role as a future physician in how I can help that community that I will be interacting with one day,” Ali said.

That’s just one way a group is looking to address homelessness in the area. The housing stability team shared the status of the family shelter they hope to open in 2024.

They will bring architect proposals to the HRA board in September.