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Study Results

What we know from a 2018 statewide study of homelessness in Minnesota


The most recent Minnesota Homeless Study was completed on October 26, 2023, through face-to-face interviews with Minnesotans experiencing homelessness and a statewide count. Initial results will be available in spring 2024. 

The results below are from the 2018 study.


An estimated 19,600 Minnesotans experienced homelessness on any given night in 2018. 50,600 people experienced homelessness over the course of the year.

Key findings from the 2018 statewide study of homelessness

Homelessness increased by 10% between 2015 and 2018.

The overall number of people experiencing homelessness counted on a single night in October 2018 increased by 10% from 2015. This increase in homelessness was evident throughout Minnesota, where there was a 9% increase in the 7-county Twin Cities metro area and a 13% increase in greater Minnesota.

Wilder’s Homelessness in Minnesota report includes an updated count of 11,371 people experiencing homelessness in 2018, adding the 1,138 people counted on six American Indian reservations that participated in a companion study during the same period. Note: This is the first year statewide and Reservation counts were combined in reporting. Therefore, 11,371 should not be compared with previous years.

One-night study counts of people experiencing homelessness, 1991-2018. This figure includes two trend lines. First the total count of people experiencing homelessness statewide increased from 3,079 in 1991 to 10,233 in 2018. The total count including American Indian reservations totals 11,371. The second trend line shows an increase in children experiencing homelessness with their parents, from 889 in 1991 to 3,265 in 2018.

Read the 2018 Homelessness in Minnesota report

The number of people staying outside or temporarily doubled up increased considerably.

The drastic increase points to a shortage of shelter space and services to help stabilize people in crisis and a lack of affordable housing.

  • Between 2015 and 2018, there was a 62% increase in the number of people not staying in a formal shelter setting (outside or temporarily doubled up); this increase drove the overall increase in homelessness.
  • The increase was more pronounced in the Twin Cities metro area (93% increase) than in greater Minnesota (36% increase).
  • 32% of respondents had been turned away from shelter in the previous 3 months due to a lack of space.
  • 33% reported that they stayed the night on a bus, on a light rail train, in a bus or train transit station, or at a highway rest stop in the previous 12 months.

Note that more people experiencing homelessness were counted in shelters (74%) than not (26%).

Homelessness among older adults (55+) increased 25% from 2015-2018.

The number of homeless adults age 55 and older increased 25% from 2015, which is substantially faster growth than older adults in Minnesota overall (8%). Issues facing the aging population, particularly chronic physical health conditions, are magnified for those experiencing homelessness.

Learn more about homelessness among older adults.

Lack of housing is the primary barrier for getting out of homelessness.

In addition to a shortage of shelter beds, there is a gap between the incomes of people experiencing homelessness and the affordability and availability of rental units, a finding that is consistent with previous study reports.

More than half of respondents (56%) said they have had difficulty renting an apartment or getting housing because there was no housing they could afford. The most common reasons that adults reported leaving their last housing were: eviction or not having their lease renewed (39%) and being unable to afford rent or house payments (38%).

  • 13% of adults experiencing homelessness had no income during the month of the study; 76% made less than $1,000.
  • Adults experiencing homelessness reported a median income of $550 during the month of the study ($600 in the Twin Cities metro area and $500 in greater Minnesota). This is less than the 2018 fair market rent of $864 per month for a one-bedroom apartment in the Twin Cities and $576 per month in greater Minnesota.
  • Half of homeless adults are on a waiting list for subsidized housing; the average wait time is 12 months.
For adults experiencing homelessness in Minnesota, monthly median income is less than the fair market rent for a one-bedroom apartment. This figure includes lines connecting median income on the left to fair market value rent on the right for the Twin Cities metro area ($600 vs. $864)and greater Minnesota ($500 vs. $576).

Homelessness often begins at a young age.

Most homeless adults (77%) have had multiple experiences with homelessness, and many adults have experienced repeated homelessness starting from an early age. More than half (52%) of those surveyed first became homeless by the time they were age 24, and over one-third (36%) first became homeless at or before age 18.

Traumatic experiences in childhood hasten entry into homelessness.

When asked whether they had experienced any of seven different adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), the majority (73%) of homeless adults had experienced at least one, and over half (59%) reported multiple ACEs. These experiences have the added negative effect of hastening entry into homelessness.

For each ACE reported by homeless adults, the average age of first episode of homelessness drops considerably. Most notably, adults who (as a child) experienced having a parent serve time in prison were, on average, homeless at age 19 (compared to age 30 for those who did not have this ACE).

This figure shows that the average age of first episode of homelessness for adults is 19 for those who had a parent who served time in prison. Circles along a continuum show that the average age of first episode of homelessness among all homeless adults is age 28, and age 30 among homeless adults who did not have a parent who served time in prison.

Children experiencing homelessness face added barriers to positive social emotional and academic outcomes.

In the 2018 Minnesota Homeless Study, 32% of those experiencing homelessness were children (17 or younger) living with their parents. This number has remained relatively flat since 2015.

For young children, homelessness means additional strain on academic and social well-being.

  • 46% of parents experiencing homelessness reported that at least one of their children had to change schools because of their housing situation.
  • 43% of parents reported at least one of their children had learning problems that required additional services.
  • When asked about a set of experiences their school-aged child might have, the most common issues parents reported were experience with bullying as a victim (42%) and difficulty with peer relationships (29%).

Nearly 6 in 10 homeless adults have experienced physical or sexual violence. Women and people who identify as LGBTQ experience this violence at higher rates.

Experiences with violence and exploitation are both a cause of homelessness, as well as a result of unsafe situations in which homeless adults may be forced to stay. 58% of homeless adults report experiencing at least one act of abuse or violence measured in the survey.

Three bars showing the percentage of people who reported at least one act of abuse or violence while homeless: 76% of women, 71% of LGBTQ adults, and 58% of homeless adults overall.

Women are more likely than men to have these experiences on all measures in the survey.

The three most common experiences were:

  • Stayed in an abusive relationship because they did not have any other housing options (women: 53%, men: 25%)
  • In a personal relationship with someone who was abusive within the last year (women: 38%, men: 13%)
  • Physically or sexually attacked while homeless (women: 31%, men: 17%)

Adults who identify as LGBTQ also experience violence and exploitation at higher rates than other adults experiencing homelessness (on all measures in the survey).

  • 50% of homeless LGBTQ adults said that they had stayed in an abusive relationship because they did not have other housing options (compared to 37% of other adults)
  • 38% had been physically or sexually attacked while homeless (compared to 22% of other adults)
  • 36% had been in a personal relationship with someone who was abusive within the last year (compared to 23% of other adults)

Learn more about homelessness among adults who identify as LGBTQ.

Most homeless adults have a chronic health condition.

  • 81% of adults experiencing homelessness have a chronic physical health condition (57%), serious mental illness (64%), or substance use disorder (24%).
  • 50% of adults experiencing homelessness have co-occurrences of these conditions.

Since 2000, the proportion of adults experiencing chronic physical and mental health conditions has increased, while substance use disorder has remained relatively flat. In particular, the mental health diagnosis of post- traumatic stress disorder has tripled between 2000 and 2018.

These conditions create additional barriers to finding and keeping stable housing and economic opportunity. Having health issues while homeless makes it more difficult to get out of homelessness and worsens the health issues themselves.

The increasing number of homeless older adults with chronic physical health conditions is cause for concern.

Seventy-five percent of older adults experiencing homelessness have a chronic physical health condition (compared to 57% of all adults experiencing homelessness). This proportion has risen consistently since 2009 (66%). Nearly all older adults experiencing homelessness (90%) reported that a disability limits their ability to work or complete activities of daily living (such as eating, bathing, and dressing). The sharp increase in the percentage of older homeless adults, as well as the increase in reported chronic physical health conditions, amounts to a public health crisis.

African American and American Indian adults are overrepresented in Minnesota's homeless population.

Racist and discriminatory economic and housing policies, along with generational poverty, continue to play a role in the overrepresentation of African American and American Indian people in the homeless population.

Those experiencing homelessness in 2018 were most likely to identify as African American (37%) or white (34%). However, relative to proportions statewide, people identifying as African American or American Indian are notably overrepresented in the homeless population. The percentage of people identifying as American Indian is an undercount, as it reflects only the data from the Minnesota Homeless Study. Additional information is available in the companion Reservation Homeless Study.

Two bar charts show how African American and American Indian adults are overrepresented in Minnesota's homeless population.

Find more data on homelessness in Minnesota

Looking for more detailed information on homelessness in Minnesota? Download detailed data tables from recent studies.