Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Hunger & Homeless Awareness Week in Dakota County

National Hunger & Homeless Awareness Week is a good time to remind residents how they can take action to help those who are experiencing homelessness in Dakota County.
During Hunger & Homeless Awareness Week, Nov. 12-20, people and organizations across the nation draw attention to the problems associated with hunger and homelessness. Participating organizations will spend the week holding educational, community service, fundraising and advocacy events.
Dakota County has seen a recent increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness. During a homeless count in January of 2016, surveyors found 63 unsheltered people, up from the 51 people counted in 2015.  Of those people counted, 65 percent were single, 21 percent were unaccompanied youth, and 14 percent were adult-headed families. Approximately 250 households are currently in need of housing and on the Housing Crisis Line priority wait list, including 82 families and 154 single adults and unaccompanied homeless youth.
The increase in homelessness in Dakota County stems from a variety of factors, including issues with affordable housing, financial hardships, disabilities, and medical emergencies. Data shows that more than half of all homeless people suffer from medical conditions, such as mental illness, which can make it more difficult to maintain stable housing.  Emergency shelters are routinely full and have consistent waiting lists.  Over the last several months, the waiting lists at two emergency shelters in Dakota County have included approximately 20 single women, 25 families, and 20 single men.
Opportunities for residents to help

§  Survey people who are experiencing homelessness: At the end of January each year, Dakota County officials, along with others in the state, will count the number of people experiencing homelessness. Dakota County needs help surveying residents at sites such as food shelfs, shelters, or by making phone calls. To volunteer, contact Rebecca Bowers at

§  Get involved in Heading Home Dakota: This is a 10-year plan to end homelessness in Dakota County. Volunteer at events or join one of the program's committees. For more information, contact Rebecca Bowers
§  Volunteer: Spend time volunteering at local organizations that offer resources to the homeless, including The Link, Dakota Woodlands, 360 Communities, Neighbors, The Open Door, Hastings Family Services and the Salvation Army. Contact individual organizations for volunteer opportunities.
§  Join the emergency shelter discussion: A coalition of housing advocates is partnering with the faith community to create an emergency shelter in Dakota County. To learn more, contact Rebecca Bowers

§  Learn about housing options: Maintaining affordable, stable housing is one of the biggest challenges for people experiencing homelessness. For more information about how to make a difference, contact Rebecca Bowers at


§  Know someone who is homeless? Those experiencing homelessness should be referred to the Dakota Housing Crisis Line at 651-554-5751.

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