Residents turn to motels to avoid homelessness

Published 10:00 pm Monday, October 30, 2017

ST. PAUL  — Officials from an eastern Minnesota county said there’s been a surge of people on the brink of homelessness turning to motels for long-term shelter.

Ramsey County has seen a 22 percent spike in people who are homeless this year,  . The number of families who’ve stayed in hotels long-term has doubled. There are at least 85 families waiting for space at the county’s emergency family shelter and another 180 families on the permanent housing wait list.

Alicia May has been staying in a single room at a motel with four kids for more than three weeks.

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“It’s better than staying in a car,” May said.

The Twin Cities’ vacancy rate was at 2.4 percent this year, the lowest rate in decades. Rent prices have also increased, with a monthly average of around $1,100. The state’s average renters’ income has dropped more than 11 percent since 2000.

“It’s a new generation of homeless. Many people are actually working, it’s just with the housing market the way it is, it’s hard,” said Jodi Harder, an outreach worker who patrols the downtown streets every week, giving water and clothes to those in need.

More landlords are opting out of Section 8 housing, said Carolyn Brown, who works at Frogtown’s Community Stabilization Project, which gives people advice and referrals about housing issues.

Rising housing prices have also led landlords to use management companies that require credit or background checks and triple-income requirements.

“The fact that these people with limited resources are competing with those who have an incredible amount of resources is causing people to fall off the cliff,” said Michelle Decker Gerrard, a senior research manager with Wilder Research, a nonprofit social services organization.