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)

Rollings said he's met a lot of men who have been through a lot of hardship, and much of it was brought on themselves. He estimates 8 out of 10 of the men in the shelter have criminal histories, which makes it more difficult to find gainful employment and, in some cases, difficult to find housing.

"I think it's a huge struggle for them," he said.

Many of them are also dealing with chemical dependency issues as well. Rollings said that, in some cases, the men are their own worst enemies.

"It all comes down to the person," he said. "Where does it all start, and where does it all end? The person."

Poverty rich area

Officer Terry is no stranger to the river banks. He walks them weekly to check on the homeless.

"If you walk up and down these banks in either direction, you'll find hundreds of abandoned tents," he says on one recent river bank walk.

Terry acknowledges the homeless aren't exactly the pride of any community. But he also says he's seen cases where people who had once been sleeping in the park or digging through restaurant garbage cans have pulled themselves out of that life. It all comes down to one word: housing.

"We've had people we were dealing with weekly. Once they got housing, you hardly ever hear from them."

Some of the city's homeless are drifters, people passing through. They may come to the area looking for work or because they have family in the area. A few turns of bad luck can quickly result in someone needing the help of a homeless shelter.

"It doesn't take much for people to lose everything," he says.

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No Direction Home