The sad reality of youth homelessness in Rochester

2012 Study on youth and family homelessness in Rochester – What did we learn?


  • In 2011, there were 170 families with 304 children who were sheltered in Rochester due to domestic violence, homelessness or both.
  • For the 2010-2011 school year, there were 314 children who met the definition of homeless in Olmsted County schools. In addition to the 109 who were sheltered, there were 182 who were doubled up with other friends/family and 23 staying in a hotel/motel.
  • The Community Reinforcement and Family Transitions Project (CRAFT) estimates that there are 20 young women/year who cannot get their very young children (age newborn – 2) back from foster care because they can’t find or afford housing.
  • In recent months, approximately 43 homeless families are turned away each month from the Women’s Shelter, Salvation Army Transitional Housing, Olmsted County Community Action Program’s Family Homeless Prevention Program, and Zumbro Valley Mental Health Center’s Homeless Outreach Program.
  • There are typically 5 homeless families/year in the Salvation Army’s transitional housing program.
  • In the past year, about 86 families with 181 children who were homeless or at risk of homelessness received assistance from programs that prevent homelessness or rapidly re-house those who have become homeless.


  • The Youth Survey from November 2011 identified 60 young people (ages 12 to 24) in Rochester who were living in unstable situations. These included emergency shelter, hotel/motel, doubled up with friends/family, empty building or car, foster care, or in another place that was not their own.
  • The Minnesota Department of Education reported that there were 104 unaccompanied youth counted as homeless in the Olmsted County Public Schools in the 2010-2011 school year. So far, in the 2011-2012 school year, 47 unaccompanied homeless youth have been identified in the Rochester Public Schools.
  • Each year, about 58 unaccompanied youth (ages 17-25) without children receive homeless prevention assistance through the LINK FHPAP program previously operated by the Rochester YMCA but now run by Lutheran Social Services.
  • Over the past 6 months years, the Homeless Service Team has worked with 12 individuals ages 18-25 who are homeless.
  • At any given time, there are typically 8 homeless youth receiving housing assistance and supportive services through Lutheran Social Service’s LINK transitional housing program for youth.


  • The population of students experiencing homelessness in the Olmsted County public schools has increased steadily throughout the last five years. This increase is attributed to the changing economic times, as well as to efforts to increase awareness within the district.
  • The number of homeless families staying at the Dorothy Day Shelter has increased over the past three years, from 15 families with 29 children in 2009 to 25 families with 61 children in 6
  • Dorothy Day is not designed to shelter families, and families typically stay here as a last resort when they don’t meet the entry requirements for Interfaith House of Hospitality or other options are full.


  • There are very young children in Rochester who are experiencing homelessness with their parents. There were 24 children under 5 who were sheltered at the Interfaith Hospitality Network in 2011. Of the 147 children whose families were assisted by the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Rehousing Program, 59 were age 5 or under (40%). For families in Transitional Housing in a two-year period, 16 of 30 children (53%) were age 5 or under.
  • Homeless youth and youth at risk of homelessness are disproportionately youth of color.
  • The families who participate in the Salvation Army’s Transitional Housing Program are predominantly in the age range of 18 to 30, and are typically single females with children.
  • The families who receive homeless prevention and rapid rehousing assistance have more parents in the 31-50 age group.
  • Of the 314 children identified as homeless in Olmsted County Public Schools in 2010-2011, 8 are pre-K, 220 are in elementary schools and 86 are in secondary schools.
  • For youth that seek help from the Family Homeless Prevention and Assistance Program, nearly all (94 youth, 91%) had their last permanent housing in Minnesota, Of these, 85 youth last had permanent housing in Olmsted County, and another 5 last lived in other SE MN counties.
  • Service Needs
  • Help with Higher Education/College and Employment Services are the highest priority needs of unaccompanied young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
  • Young parents who are homeless or at risk of homelessness need help meeting basic needs (clothing, childcare, dental) but also desire assistance with services to help them improve their situation (higher education, budgeting/credit, and employment).


  • Domestic violence and disabilities each affect 43% of the adults in families that enter transitional housing.
  • Of the families who receive services from Olmsted County Community Action’s Family Homeless Prevention and Assistance Program, very low incomes are a major barrier. Twelve out of 22 families ( 55%) had incomes at or below 50% of federal poverty level.
  • Lack of employment is the biggest barrier identified by youth who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Of youth households receiving FHPAP assistance, 93% lack steady full-time employment.
  • Lack of credit and rental history are also high barriers for youth who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Of youth households receiving FHPAP assistance, 78% said they lack credit history and 67% lack rental history, both of which could help them secure rental housing.
  • Of the youth 18 and over who completed the youth survey, just 11% had graduated from high school.


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