Updated: January 12, 2021 06:31 PM
Created: January 12, 2021 06:10 PM
(ABC 6 News) - Homelessness is an ongoing issue across Minnesota, in both small towns and large cities.
According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, 7,243 people are homeless on any given night in Minnesota. Of that statewide number, 497 people are in Southeast Minnesota.
"We did a three-day survey back at the end of October and at that time we were able to count 207 homeless individuals," Olmsted County Housing Resource Coordinator Trent Fluegel said. "The number showed us that the majority of people that we counted, it was their first time homeless and that would lead me to believe that probably the economic fallout from COVID did have something to do with that increase."
Many in-person services have been halted because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Olmsted County has still found a way to keep things like rental assistance and eviction protection going.
"The amount of community collaboration that's been going on over the last almost a year now has just been amazing," Dave Dunn, the housing director of Olmsted County, said.
Another resources that is available in Rochester is Project Legacy. The local non-profit helps youth and young adults who may be experiencing things such as homelessness, trauma or poverty and helps them get on the right path for success.
"Most of the young people in our program have been homeless at some point in their life," Project Legacy's Executive Director Karen Edmonds said. "Oftentimes, when they come to us they are facing eviction or they're couch surfing or they are staying in very unsafe situations."
Like many non-profits, Project Legacy saw an increase in struggling kids and young adults last year. Most of the youth Project Legacy works with, work in the service industry. An industry that has been hit pretty hard during the pandemic due to limited service and closures because of the Governor's executive orders. With job loss, and the inability to pay rent or other bills, Project Legacy stepped up for those invovled with their organization.
"You know not just paying the bills but providing that emotional support and reassuring people who have no safety net that it's going to be okay, things are going to turnaround, this is temporary, they are going to be okay," Edmonds said.
Homelessness doesn't just affect large cities, but small ones as well where exact numbers are hard to come by. Last January, just under 10 people were reported as homeless in Mower County.
Maj. Jeff Strickler, a corps officer with Austin's Salvation Army said, "a lot of them aren't real forthcoming with details unless you've built some kind of a relationship with them."
The Salvation Army Austin offers a variety of assistance programs from helping with rent to free meals, but its main focus is prevention.
"We do help with people for rent and emergency lodging and things like that, but we really do try to prevent the homelessness before it begins," Maj. Strickler said.
Just down the road in Albert Lea, the topic of homelessness has been a subject of concern, especially after the warehouse fire that broke out in December. According to SEMCAC, the homeless population in Freeborn County is expanding. And with limited resources in the area, the agency is looking at ways to address that.
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