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Humphrey students join the fight to end homelessness

As more and more people lose their jobs in today's economic climate, families are forced to make tough decisions. The recession has made Americans aware of their vulnerability and heightened concerns for the truly economically disadvantaged, such as the chronically homeless.

Under the direction of Associate Professor Maria Hanratty, a team of Humphrey School students had the unique opportunity to study the homeless population in the Twin Cities and evaluate the effectiveness of the county's services for them.

The students focused on the effectiveness of the Housing First programs, which are part of Heading Home Hennepin, a 10-year joint initiative between Minneapolis and Hennepin County that has as its goal ending long-term homelessness in the community by 2016.

Housing First programs help individuals and families access housing as soon as possible, then provide support services that will allow them to sustain housing long-term. The study matched 250 program participants with comparable individuals who did not receive housing services.

"Our initial results are promising," says Hanratty, an expert in the economics of poverty and comparative welfare systems. "They show that the program has been able to stably house people who have been homeless for a long time, sometimes up to 10 or 20 years."

The research team found that the Housing First programs dramatically reduced county shelter use, decreasing demand by nearly 36 percent. The students also documented a reduction in arrests, as well as increases in the stability of public health insurance coverage among program participants.

"On a personal level," says Hanratty, "individuals indicated feelings of personal safety and a greater sense of autonomy from finally 'having their own key.'"

The Humphrey School students who conducted the research as a part of their final capstone project, which partners students with community organizations to provide targeted, practical research and analysis.

A detailed report, including a wide array of statistics, is available for review on Heading Home Hennepin's website at www.headinghomehennepin.org

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