The Free Press, Mankato, MN

No Direction Home

December 8, 2013

No Direction Home, Day 1: More Mankato homeless now than 10 years ago

Young and old seeking help from a variety of sources

(Continued)

“I'm talking to five to 10 new households per week who simply cannot afford their housing,” Hengy-Gretz said. “The folks I deal with are truly living paycheck to paycheck.”

At Partners for Affordable Housing, Meyers-Dobbler said she's given dozens of talks in the community. Every time she does, it's an education for people.

“People are surprised when I go out in the community and talk about the numbers,” she said.

Last year, Meyers-Dobbler said, Partners for Affordable Housing served 54 households with an average length of stay of 73 days.

Partners takes in men and women at its Welcome Inn facility. Next door at its Theresa House, they take single women and families with children.

"For every one that we serve, we turn away five households," Meyers-Dobbler said.

Kyle Rollings, who runs the men's shelter at the Salvation Army, said there's one other barrier that often contributes to homelessness but that might not get talked about as much: personal responsibility.

All men who stay at the shelter must do chores, whether it be vacuuming, mopping, doing dishes or cleaning tables after meals. They're also expected make the beds they sleep in at night and keep their areas clean. They're also prohibited from staying at the shelter if they're intoxicated or high. If they are, and they need a place to stay, staff will call the police and they'll generally be taken to a detox center. Rollings said it's very rare that a man objects to the house rules.

The demographics of who is staying at the shelter have remained relatively constant, although there have been some slight variations.

In the 2011-2012 shelter season, the largest group of men (34 percent, 24 men) fell in the 18-24 age range. Last season, the biggest group fell in the 40-49 range (28 percent, 25 men). The average stay, however, jumped dramatically from two years ago to last year, which Rollings said may be attributable to the harsher weather. In the 2011-12 season, the average stay was 20 days. Last year, that number was 33.

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