400+ Central Minnesota School Aged Children Identified as Homeless
ST. CLOUD - Over 400 Central Minnesota school kids are identified as homeless, according to numbers from the United Way.
The statistics were gathered from a number of Central Minnesota school districts, with the largest portion coming from the St. Cloud area school district (Which is also the largest Central Minnesota school district).
Jon Ruis is the president of United Way of Central Minnesota, he says the numbers go beyond children: with 5 to 10 families on wait lists for local shelters every night.
"There are certain parts of the community that are really struggling with their basic needs and housing is one of those. There just aren't enough homeless shelter beds for families in Central Minnesota."
Ruis says if shelters are full, families need to spend nights with relatives, friends or in hotel rooms. Shelters can be especially packed in the wintertime. In response, Place of Hope has a "church of the week" program, where a different church is open every week for those in need to have a warm place to stay in. 30-40 people stay in the churches on average during the winter months.
Ruis says Catholic Charities, Place of Hope, the Salvation Army and other organizations do great work helping area homeless. However, more needs to be done for affordable housing. The United Way is working with organizations to provide a systemic plan.
"We can get more workforce and affordable housing, so there's more room for if you are experiencing homelessness-you can get out of it and you can get into a stable place to live. That's then going to help your kids succeed in school."
Housing and rental costs aren't just hard on the homeless. 51 percent of renters in Stearns County are also experiencing cost burdens.
The numbers were discussed during the St. Cloud community pillars event on Friday morning.