Bitter weather creates harsh conditions for state's homeless

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The cold snap is dangerous for the thousands of Minnesotans who don't have a permanent home.

MPR News reported that the sub-zero weather has prompted even those who usually choose to stay outside to seek indoor accommodations, with shelter officials saying the work to find safe beds becomes more intense when the weather turns bitterly cold.

KARE had a story about the St. Stephen's Street Outreach team, which sends workers onto the streets to try convince the homeless to accept a night in a shelter. Workers sometimes drive people to a place that's warm and safe.

The Mankato Free Press had a long Sunday story on the increase in the number of homeless there. The story said that the Wilder Foundation, which monitors poverty and homelessness in Minnesota, estimated roughly 14,000 were homeless in Minnesota in 2012, up from 3,000 in 1991. The Wilder Foundation's count in southeastern Minnesota, from Mankato south to the Iowa border and east to the Wisconsin border, found 619 homeless, up from 483 people identified as homeless three years earlier.Mankato Area Public Schools tracks the number of students with no permanent home. Throughout the 2012-2013 academic year, there were 61 students who, at some point throughout the year, reported having no place to go. This year, that number jumped to 95.

Mankato's Department of Public Safety now includes homeless liaison, assigned to makes the rounds to check on the welfare of people who have no place to go or who choose to live in the elements.

“What I'm trying to do out here isn't about enforcing laws," said liaison Officer Wayne Terry. "We're trying to help people. We're trying to help everybody coexist.”

The story concludes that a lack of affordable housing is the top reason for homelessness. Chronic poverty, mental illness, chemical dependency and low wages contribute to the problem.

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