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Homeless shelter seeing increase in homelessness

Despite county report finding a decrease
Published: Dec. 6, 2021 at 6:17 PM CST
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – With the arrival of the cold weather, people experiencing homelessness are at more risk of becoming severely ill or dying from hypothermia and frostbite.

Here in Olmsted County, 40 percent of homeless people living in Olmsted County reported being homeless for the first time in 2020. One year later, this number is down to 27 percent.

“The investments that the county and the rest of the community made really two-fold I think in housing and in supportive services are having an impact,” Olmstead County housing director David Dunn said.

But what are homeless shelters like The Landing seeing? Since September 1, it’s seen 420 people come through its doors seeking help, 325 of those individuals expressed dealing with homelessness.

“We keep seeing new people come in. We don’t house that many people on a regular basis, and we don’t see that many people getting housed,” The Landing co-founder and president Dan Fifield said.

Many are also struggling with health issues, so these folks tend to come to Rochester to seek medical help.

“People that come to Rochester for mental health or substance abuse treatment or people that come here for that get discharged with nowhere to go and so they end up in our warming center,” Dunn said.

“We see people coming out of the clinic that have had medical issues that have run out of money that have become homeless,” Fifield said.

Since 2019, the county has invested in more than 200 housing units for vulnerable populations, including affordable housing.

“It’s one thing to put somebody into a housing unit, it’s another thing to make sure they have food to eat, a bed to sleep on, making sure as a community that we provide those resources that are necessary that deal with other underlying issues,” Dunn said.

But some don’t think this housing is affordable enough.

“I don’t really think that there is in the true sense of the word affordable housing for this population. It has to be very, very low and has to be very subsidized housing, and what there is of it is not enough,” Fifield said.

So, what about someone like Phillip Berquist, who’s been experiencing homelessness for more than a decade?

“It’s increasing everywhere I go. I haven’t been many places but I’ve seen a lot. Part of me wonders if the statistics are accurate in the first place. It drives an icy stake into my heart,” Berquist said.

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