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Today is 09.29.2016

Homelessness Rising Dramatically In Twin Cities Suburbs | Twin Cities , Minnesota | Star Tribune

The waiting list at Anoka County’s only homeless shelter — a 20-bed facility — hit an all-time high of 80 recently. That didn’t include suburbanites who preferred sleeping at rest stops, couch-hopping or spending the night freezing in cars.

Homelessness is rising in Twin Cities suburbs, officials say. It’s more pervasive in Anoka County than in Hennepin County, but harder to detect. Suburban panhandlers are rare. And some suburban homeless adults have steady jobs, but couldn’t avoid foreclosures.

“To be homeless in the suburbs is the end of the line,” said Heather Ries, director of Stepping Stone, Anoka County’s homeless shelter. “It’s a different culture here. The homeless in the suburbs don’t scream, panhandle or knock down doors. They hide.

“We’re just waking up to homelessness outside of Minneapolis and St. Paul. But it’s very real. It’s terrifying for those experiencing it. And it’s growing.”

Homelessness has quadrupled over four years in Washington County — from 93 in 2008 to 381 in January. In Dakota County, where the homeless population exceeds 1,000 for the first time, it’s grown 20 percent the past year — from 841 in 2011 to 1,013 this year.

Unemployment, rising costs and mental illness all are factors. Stepping Stone will triple in size before year’s end, becoming a 60-bed facility, Ries said. It may not be enough. Waiting lists “have become part of our lives with every wave of foreclosures,” Ries said.

Anoka County found 1,463 homeless individuals on Jan. 25, when the county’s Continuum of Care group, which works to end homelessness, conducted an annual count of the homeless.

The same night, agencies in other counties, including Hennepin, Dakota, Washington, Carver and Scott, did the same. Hennepin County counted 3,690 homeless people.

These counts are considered unscientific and conservative by those who conduct them, but show one other alarming trait — an increase in the number of homeless adolescents.

In Anoka County, 150 homeless youths ages 12 to 18 were counted in January — 40 percent more than the 108 counted last year. As the temperature plunged to 12 degrees that January night in Anoka County, 15 homeless people slept outside, said Kristina Hayes, the county’s Continuum of Care coordinator. Another 25 slept in vehicles. Twelve families were living in sheds or fish houses, without heat.