Unsheltered in Minnesota

Investments in ESP critical to support those most in need


No group is in more danger than the unsheltered population in Minnesota as the statewide housing crisis is impacting Minnesotans at every point in the housing continuum – the dramatically increasing number of people living in their cars, under bridges, in stairwells and other places not meant for human habitation. This population is growing quickly, and it is time for Minnesotans to act:

• Unsheltered homelessness statewide has increased by 62% since 2015.
• The unsheltered population has increased by 136% in the Twin Cities over the last decade, with a dramatic 50% increase in the last year.
• In Greater Minnesota, the unsheltered number has risen by nearly one-third (32%) in the last year.
• The counts of unsheltered persons in the Twin Cities region (55.2%) have been increasing at more than six times the national rate (8.7%) in the past year.
• Since Higher Ground Saint Paul opened in 2017, capacity has increased by nearly one-third from 280 to 356, without a steady increase in funding to keep pace with the increased services.
• Catholic Charities Hope Street for homeless youth, the region’s largest youth shelter, was forced to turn away more than 1,000 young people in the last year.


As the demand on Minnesota’s shelter system grows, service providers have been forced to rely more on private funders and their own reserves. While we are grateful to have strong support from
our public and private partners, significant sources of support have declined in recent years:

• United Way funding has declined 74% since 2012.
• Public funding has remained largely stagnant year after year.
• Catholic Charities Opportunity Centers in both Minneapolis (94%) and Saint Paul (95%) are supported almost entirely by private sources.

Catholic Charities is already experiencing the consequences of these funding shortages. Reduced operating funding means more clients are relying on fewer staff for the same level of service, putting increased demand on public safety and emergency services.

The Emergency Services Program (ESP) is the most flexible source of funds for Minnesota’s shelter providers to respond to the unsheltered crisis. Catholic Charities is currently covering a $6.9 million shortfall between five critical shelter and daytime services programs. Other shelter providers are likely in similar situations, putting the state’s entire shelter system at risk.

Catholic Charities is the largest provider of shelter to single adults in the region. We currently rely on private funders for nearly 80 percent of our shelter and opportunity center operations serving single adults, families and young people. We believe other providers are likely in a similar situation—relying too heavily on our private partners without a matching investment from the state. This is not sustainable as an organization, as quality service providers or as a community. To meet the growing needs of the community, we must re-evaluate and invest widely and collectively in long-term, flexible solutions like the Emergency Services Program.

Catholic Charities: A Trusted Leader and Partner: For 150 years, Catholic Charities has served those most in need and advocated for justice in the community. Our work is fueled by a unique public-private partnership. We are proud of the innovations and service models this public-private partnership makes possible like Medical Respite and Pay-For-Stay. We must ensure a strong, sustainable foundation of investment in these critical community services, which not only serve the most vulnerable, but are fundamental to the vitality of our region and state.


ProgramPeople servedTotal nightsTotal cost
Private %*Public %Gap
($ million)
Dorothy Day Place /
Higher Ground Saint Paul Shelter
Dorothy Day Place/Saint
Paul Opportunity Center**
5,071Year-round day
Higher Ground Minneapolis
Minneapolis Opportunity Center4,201Year-round day
Minneapolis Hope Street
Shelter for Youth
Ramsey County Family Shelter41822,8811.1m35%65%0.39m)
* Combination of private contributions, philanthropic grants, and client payments.
** Services provided in Mary Hall prior to Saint Paul Opportunity Center opening.


What must be done:

1. Increase ongoing flexible funding for Minnesota’s shelter system
2. Determine immediate opportunities to expand capacity and resource needs to respond to crises and meet immediate demand.
3. Aggressive permanent housing strategies developed by state, county and municipal leaders in partnership with service providers.

How can it be done?

1. Invest $15 million in ESP with support for ongoing services, not just new programs.
2. Increase funding for Housing Support by $100 a month.
3. Technical assistance in the transition to the Housing Stability Waiver within Housing Programs.


You can make a difference in the lives of those most in need this legislative session by advocating for an investment in ESP. Here are a few easy ways to get involved:

  1. Contact your legislators and urge them to support the Emergency Services Program this session.
  2. Support our postcard campaign! Pick up a stack of postcards to share with your parish, family, book club or neighborhood and urge your lawmakers to act. Contact Joan Miltenberger, community engagement advocate for more information at joan.miltenberger@cctwincities.org or 651-647-2586.
  3. Share this post with your networks! If you manage a newsletter for your parish or other group, use the sample text below in your next issue:
Urgent – Catholic Campaign for Emergency Shelter Funding!Minnesota is facing a homelessness crisis. In the last year alone, unsheltered homelessness in the Twin Cities has increased by 50 percent. We need your help today to expand the number of emergency shelter beds and critical support resources for our most vulnerable neighbors.

Join Catholic Charities and thousands of advocates across the state urging Governor Walz and lawmakers to invest $15 million in Minnesota’s Emergency Services Program. These funds will save lives and your voice will make a difference!

Thank you!

« | »

Donate Now ENews