Dramatically Reducing Minnesota Student/Family Homelessness

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Beginning in late 2018, with incredible collaboration from a number of St Paul district, charter, city, county, social service leaders, along with current and formerly homeless youth and parents named below, the Center for School Change began helping create a coalition to dramatically reduce youth/family homelessness in Minnesota.

Cofounded with St Paul Public school parent Nancy Bitenc, the group currently includes among others, St. Paul  City Council  members Jane Prince and  Mitra Jalali Nelson,  Ramsey County Commissioner Trista Matascastillo   and other Commission members, St. Paul Public School Project Reach  Director Anne McInerney and members of her staff,  chartered school students from Face to Face Academy and High School for Recording Arts, Interfaith Action,  Roy Magnuson and Amber Gray (Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office) Sheri Riemers from Ain Dah Yung Center, Wokie Weah, Marcus Pope, Matt Norris and Ladan Ghedi from Youthprise, Dr.Tom Kottke of Health Partners,Hanna Getachew-Kreusser, MA, Executive Director, Face to Face Health and Counseling, St. Paul Public Schools graduate (and formerly homeless) Khalique Rogers and others.

One of this efforts activities involved a number of people, including CSC’s director, meeting with Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, at his request, to discuss the relationship between dramatically reducing homelessness and increasing student achievement in Minnesota public schools.  (See picture above)

  • This led to an invitation from the Attorney General to several group members, including CSC’s director, to appear in a podcast hosted by the A.G., that was broadcast beginning in November 2019.

In February, 2020, Minnesota Public Radio invited Khalique Rogers, an active participant in these efforts, Eric Grumdahl, Deputy director of the Minnesota Interagency Council on Homelessness and CSC’s director to spent about an hour discussing why dramatically reducing youth and family homelessness, and how it can be done.

Eric, Joe, Khalique and Jim

The effort to reduce youth and family homelessness was based in part on the CSC director’s experience as an urban public school assistant principal.  Several youngsters at the school became homeless.  This helped contribute to massive personal problems, and significant challenges in school.

New efforts began in December, 2018.  Central to the efforts was the belief that homeless youth and parent must be deeply involved in every part of  this work.

Coalition member Isis Watford and a mural at Youthprise.

The  coalition has been able to

  1. Convince the St. Paul City Council to hold a historic hearing, at which district & charter students and families discussed what homelessness was like for them.  They offered recommendations to the Council.
  2. Helped convince the Ramsey County Commissioners to add $1 million to its budget to help reduce homelessness
  3. Meet with Attorney General Keith Ellison at his request to discuss ways to reduce homelessness (pictured above).
  4. Write a column for a number of suburban and rural Minnesota newspaper on the need to reduce homelessness.
  5. Help convince Ramsey County officials to work with Interfaith Action to keep a day shelter open that was scheduled to be closed August 31, 2019
  6. Named itself UFA (United for Action)
  7. Responded to a request from the Minnesota State Attorney General who asked a youth member of the UFA coalition to join him on a podcast about homelessness.  The CSC director also participated in this podcast.
  8. Work with Youthprise, which hired three current or formerly homeless youth participating in United For Action, to help increase awareness of youth and family homelessness.
  9. Presented information about the critical need to reduce homelessness to parties of a statewide lawsuit seeking to significantly increase student achievement especially by students from low income families, indigenous students and students f color.
  10. Met with Rep. Alice Hausman to discuss possible legislation for 2020

St. Paul City Council Member Jane Prince, Nazarria McClintock, Nadia McClintock

May 2020 Statement to legislators about youth helping to build houses for the homeless:

To help strengthen ALL of Minnesota, we strongly urge that

1.Minnesota’s bonding bill include as one of its priorities, construction of permanent, affordable housing for Minnesota’s homeless, especially for families with children, youth and teen parents with one or more children.

2. High schools and colleges be eligible, along with other organizations that have built homes in the past, to apply for funds appropriated by the legislature.

A variety of organizations tell us that they have “shovel ready” projects ready to go if there is state support. Wilder and other researchers have found there are homeless youth and families throughout the state – about 1/3 in greater Minnesota, 1/3 in Twin Cities suburbs and 1/3 in Minneapolis St Paul. Constructing permanent housing is vital if Minnesota is going to dramatically reduce the number of homeless families.  The solution to homelessness is homes.

 There’s a threefold benefit if the legislature does this.

  1. Health benefit: Research by a respected Minnesota doctor shows providing permanent housing for homeless helps reduce health care costs.
  2. Economic benefit: Done correctly, housing the homeless saves money that would otherwise be spent on public safety, health care, and social services. Bonding also will help provide jobs that are urgently need.
  3. Workforce shortage: Some Minnesota programs are training high school and college students to build homes – some even building homes for homeless. Construction trades report significant shortages  Students in the Anoka Hennepin district, for example, have been building homes for more than 20 years.  Their total cost is less than $100,000 for a 3 bedroom home.

We should not be content with shelters which are a valuable but short term response. A Wilder Foundation report released earlier this year found

  • “A lack of housing is the primary reason for homelessness”
  • Children experiencing homelessness face added barriers to positive social emotional and academic outcomes.
  • More than 1/3 of homeless adults first became homeless at or before age 18
  • 37% of homeless adults are African American, 34% are white, and 12% are American Indian – both African American and American Indian are significantly over-represented.

The Minnesota Dept of Education reports: “Homelessness disproportionally impacts students of color. Seventy-two percent of students facing homelessness are students of color. American Indian students are over-represented among students experiencing homelessness by a factor of 6.1. Black students are over-represented by a factor of 4.5. Homelessness also disproportionately impacts students with disabilities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LBGTQ) youth.”

However, homeless youth are found throughout the state – from Hayfield to Hopkins,  Robbinsdale to Rochester, International Falls to Isanti.

Please consider making permanent affordable housing a high priority for bonding.

Dr. Candice M. Ames,  Pine City School Board Member, 50 years in education

Juan Bowen, M.D. Rochester, Minnesota

Lincoln Bacal, Twin Cities Changemakers Founder and high school senior

Nancy Jane Bitenc, Co-founder, United for Action

Walter Covina, Bridgemakers Founder, Director and High School Junior

Ed Felien, Editor, SouthSide Pride

Hanna Getachew-Kreusser, MA, Executive Director, Face to Face Health and Counseling

Patti Haasch, retired public school principal, volunteer MAAP STARS chair

Greg Herder, Board Chair, National Youth Leadership Council

Roxanne Holst, Parent Hayfield High School

Wayne Jennings, Retired principal, author, School Transformation

Thomas E. Kottke, MD, MSPH, Immediate Past President, Twin Cities Medical Society

George Latimer, Mayor, St Paul, 1976-1990

Jane Leonard, President, Growth & Justice

Shawn Lewis, GCDF (Global Career Development Facilitator), Consultant

Jonette Lucia, MMA, Luce Consulting

Roy Magnuson, Public Information Officer, Ramsey County Sheriff’s Officer

Liz Turbridge McCambridge, Retired SPPS Teacher and Social Activist

Joe Nathan, Director, Center for School Change

Jane Prince, St. Paul City Council Member, Ward 7

John Poupart, Founder and President, American Indian Policy Center

Khalique Rogers, University of Minnesota student

Jon Schroeder, former publisher, Grant County Herald

Tony Simmons, Executive Director, High School for Recording Arts

Mary Kay Sloan, Member Pine City, Mn City Council

Linda Slocum, 25 year public school teacher and 12 year State Representative

Joan Sorenson

Danielle Swift, Community Organizer

Rashad Turner, founder, executive director, Minnesota Parent Union

Mary Anne Wark, retired educator, attorney, non-profit volunteer

Wokie Weah, President, Youthprise

Nelsie Yang, Saint Paul Council Member Ward 6

Andrew R. Zinkel, MD, MBA, Emergency Physician, St. Paul






Andrew R. Zinkel, MD, MBA, Emergency Physician, St. Paul


Relevant documents:

  • Article by UFA coalition member Dr. Tom Kottke:             “Access to Affordable Housing Promotes Health and Well-Being and Reduces Hospital Visits
  • Federal report showing number of homeless students in Minnesota has increased from about 15,000 to almost 18,000 in just three years (2014-15 to 2017-18)
  • Federal summary showing there are 16 African Americans in Minnesota who are homeless, for every white person who is homeless.


Additionally check out the other newspaper articles CSC has published regarding reducing the level of youth homelessness in Minnesota:

If you or someone you know is experiencing homelessness and are in need of resources, please visit the MN Housing Finance Agency: http://www.mnhousing.gov/sites/multifamily/homelessness

Additional Reports on Responding Effectively to Unsheltered Homelessness in Twin Cities Metro Area are available below.