The fact that the count is done in January, local experts say, is at best a misleading count. People who find temporary shelter to escape the cold are not counted among the homeless, which experts at the Minnesota Valley Action Council say is far from an accurate picture of homelessness in parts of the country where winter is a major factor.
More than 610,000 people were homeless at the time of the count, down from 633,782 — a 4 percent drop from the previous year, according to HUD. The number of homeless veterans stood at 57,849, down nearly 5,000 (8 percent) from the previous year. The number of chronically homeless people declined 7 percent to 92,593. The number of people in homeless families fell 7 percent to 222,197, according to the report.
Minnesota was one of the states in the study that showed homelessness going up. In the "Homeless People in Families" category, Minnesota's count was 282, an increase of 6.7 percent over the year before.
Why people become homeless is a complicated question. Why they can't pull themselves out of that situation may be even more complicated.
Ask anyone who deals with the homeless in the Mankato area what the No. 1 problem is, and most of them won't hesitate to say: lack of affordable housing.
Finding housing on the lower end of the rent price spectrum is difficult. Finding help from the federal government is even harder.
One place where they do get help is from the Minnesota Valley Action Council, a nonprofit that helps people get emergency housing assistance or emergency heating assistance. They help people get vouchers to purchase things such as gas to get to work. They run a program where people who qualify can get cars cheap.
Of all the staff at MVAC, no one deals with the homeless population as much as Kate Hengy-Gretz.