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Homeless problem plagues Hennepin Co. despite money, programs

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New data indicate the number of homeless people in Hennepin County continues to swell, the Star Tribune reports.

The number of homeless families in the county last year was the highest it has been in a decade at 1,453 (although that is still lower than a high of 1,817 in 2000), the newspaper reported. That's despite the efforts of private and public programs that spend millions of dollars to tackle the problem – with some success, the newspaper reports.

Advocates for the homeless say the county's poor are still struggling at the fringes of a slow economic recovery and a tight housing market that does not offer many options for low-income renters.

The Star Tribune reports that at the Salvation Army's Harbor Light shelter in Minneapolis, officials reported another record-breaking year, with an average of almost 500 people packed into the building on any given night, including some sleeping on mats in the chapel. At the Dorothy Day Center in St. Paul, officials say between 175 and 200 homeless people bed down at its overnight shelter, with more sleeping a nearby building reserved for overflow.

In a separate story, the Star Tribune reports on the move of Anoka County's only homeless shelter, which has moved from Coon Rapids to a bigger facility in rural Ramsey.

Family homelessness has increased sharply since the economic recession, advocates with the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless have said. Shelters have seen spikes in the number of children they serve, the coalition says. Between July 2011 and June 2012, public school districts identified 6,452 students in Minneapolis, 2,226 students in St. Paul, and 359 students in Duluth without stable housing, the coalition said.

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