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'One Outside Is Too Many': More Unsheltered Hennepin County Residents Finding Permanent Homes

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- As the weather warms up, the number of unsheltered people rises.

Tent villages are popping up around Minneapolis, including one off 13th Avenue and Sibley Street Northeast, near Sheridan Memorial Park. Tents are also visible from the Quarry parking lot near Johnson Street.

Even in residential areas like South 9th Street, tents sit next to high rises and single-family homes.

Hennepin County is coming off an unprecedented year that saw the effort to address homelessness take huge steps forward. Housing Stability Director David Hewitt says COVID-19 made it impossible to do a count of how many people are unsheltered.

"One outside is too many, so we take that as a starting principle," Hewitt said. "In the midst of a global pandemic, in the midst of civil unrest, you know, following the murder of George Floyd, and all of our services were having to change the way they worked and adapt and try to cater to people's health needs, and that transformation has been incredible."

That change centered around partnerships with community, nonprofits and other boots-on the-ground agencies to identify and get the chronically homeless to permanent homes.

Northeast Minneapolis Homeless Encampment Johnson Street Near Quarry
(credit: CBS)

"The number for 2020 was 2,165 people, so that's every single day six people. Just under six people a day every day for 365 days across the year moving out of homelessness and into permanent housing, and that's only possible because of those partnerships," he said.

Partners like Avivo Village project houses 100 unsheltered people, and 20 now have a permanent places to stay.

Culturally-specific shelters for Indigenous community members, like Homeward Bound, are also getting people off the street and into their own space.

"This is a community-wide challenge and the issue requires community solutions, it requires partnership," Hewitt said.

He believes these partnerships are making a difference, but much more needs to be done because once a person is placed into permanent housing, another two are in need.

Shelters now operate 24/7, have new ventilation systems, offer meals and provide resources that lead to permeant housing.

On any given night, more than 1,000 people in Hennepin County need shelter.

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