Homeless for the Holidays: Survey offers insight into homelessness

A survey conducted at the end of October is offering new insight into the homeless issue in Rochester and Olmsted County.

Posted: Dec 22, 2019 11:06 PM
Updated: Dec 22, 2019 11:11 PM

ROCHESTER, Minn. - New efforts and data are offering a different approach for those who help the homeless.

The city of Rochester, Olmsted County, and Mayo Clinic collaborated to bring in consultants from the Corporation for Supportive Housing. One of the things they advised doing was a three-day survey.

"We spent three days intentionally going out and trying to find everyone that we could that was either living outside or sleeping in a car, and getting their information together so that we had a baseline to work from," Housing Resource Coordinator Trent Fluegel with the Health, Housing, and Human Services Administration said.

Fluegel is with Olmsted County and Ashley Brusse works for Zumbro Valley Health Center.

"Homelessness is going to be a continuous problem, but the way that we approach it is something that can make a huge impact on our system," Brusse, the housing and homeless services supervisor, said.

Fluegel and Brusse were two of the people who went out and surveyed those in the community.

Before surveying, different providers in the community (including Olmsted County, Zumbro Valley Health Center, Salvation Army, Center City Housing Corporation, and Landing MN) made a list of people they knew were homeless. They identified 123 people as 'unsheltered.'

Of those, they ended up interviewing 105 people during the three-day period. Data from those interviews will allow them to track their efforts and get people housed.

"From these numbers we looked at their situation, where are they at on our housing list, is their assessment for housing up to date, or do we need to update it," Brusse said. "And after we update it, are there other ways we could house them? Is it something a housing resource through treatment better for them? Is it that they are employed and they can afford an apartment? They just need someone to help them find an apartment that will take someone with a couple barriers."

The survey allowed them to put a face to a name, see what resources they may need, and follow through with them. They not only want to get people out of homelessness, but have them be successful in the community.

"We want to track when people are first identified as homeless, how long they remain homeless before they're housed, and then once housed how long they remain stably housed," Fluegel said. "Because our overall goal is to make homelessness in Olmsted County rare, brief, and to happen just one time to an individual."

The survey was taken at the end of October. Since then, nearly 30 people have been moved into stable housing.

The continuous tracking of efforts will be crucial in future funding for resources and programs.

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