A Hennepin County program to help the homeless find permanent housing offers a blueprint for other cities and counties dealing with this persistent problem that erodes human dignity.
The program deploys professional case managers, case aides and caseworkers who have various levels of expertise on issues that affect homelessness. Some know how to overcome barriers posed by criminal records, some know the subsidized housing programs, and others have expertise in substance abuse and youth homelessness.
A cohesive team of 30 case workers has helped 331 people find permanent housing in the past year, according to a Star Tribune story. They've offered services to 868 people. Caseworkers work one-on-one with homeless people, and every person is assigned a caseworker who assists them even after they find housing.
This is completed with a budget of $10.5 million over four years, so about $2.5 million per year.
"The team knocks down barriers one by one," said Lynn Shafer, the program's manager. "It's a well-trained and cohesive team that shares resources with each other and the community," she told the Star Tribune.
And the county doesn't own the housing where people are placed, Shafer says. The team works with government-subsidized Section 8 housing, market-rate housing, and housing in complexes designed to be affordable.
There is a coordinated homeless effort in Mankato and the surrounding area, and a Free Press in-depth report in 2019 showed some progress, but homeless shelters in the Mankato area and transitional housing continue to have waiting lists.
The Hennepin County plan should give homeless advocates some insights into programs that work and should give state and local elected officials reasons to invest in solving the problem.