Minnesota leading the way in addressing child homelessness

September 6, 2012

One-third of homeless adults were homeless as children. A closer look at the well-being of today's young children who are homeless shows why it is so difficult to overcome this experience in adulthood. Early in their lives, homeless infants, toddlers and preschoolers show the impact of the unstable and often unsafe housing. More than one-half of homeless young children assessed for their developmental progress were lagging behind their peers—cognitively, physically and socially. These and other highly concerning findings also mean that these children and their families are among those for whom providing early intervention and other services will provide high “returns on investment.”

Children are the fastest growing group of homeless people in Minnesota.

  • In 2009, it was estimated that on any given night, up to 3,900 children and youth are homeless; up to 39,000 are living in shelters, unsheltered locations, doubled up or in other temporary arrangements.
  • More than half of homeless children are age six or under; one in ten is an infant. 

To date, however, policies and programs have generally been oriented towards adults. Although there are a few effective programs to help families experiencing homelessness access services for their children, the programs are scattered and largely unsupported by state policy.

Fortunately, a bipartisan effort at the State Capitol last session resulted in the Visible Child Work Group. The legislation was spearheaded by CDF-MN and the Family Housing Fund (FHF), and supported by several other organizations. It requires the work group, which includes legislators, housing providers, advocates, executive branch leaders and people who have experienced homelessness, to identify the components of a plan to improve the well-being of homeless children. The group will meet through the fall and present its recommendations to the Legislature and Governor’s Children Cabinet in December.

CDF-MN and FHF will be providing the staff support for the work group and compiling the final report. For more information, please contact Alexandra Fitzsimmons, CDF-MN Legislative Affairs Director, or Marcie Jefferys, CDF-MN Policy Development Director.

The final legislation signed by the Governor can be found at Chapter 247, Article 3 Section 27 of Minnesota 2012 Session Laws.