The rise in the number of people sleeping outdoors became a high-profile issue in Minneapolis last year, when a narrow strip of land along Hiawatha Avenue eventually became home to some 300 people in tents. Housing researchers just reported that the state of Minnesota has a bigger homeless problem than they’ve ever seen. And the state’s lack of affordable housing and emergency shelters is hitting one age demographic particularly hard: Residents over the age of 55. According to Wilder Research — which conducts counts of people sleeping in vehicles, shelters, tent encampments, outside or on trains every three years — the number of homeless seniors in Minnesota is rising at a rate faster than any other age group. Researchers released Minnesota’s newest count this week, showing an increase of about 25 percent among homeless seniors since 2015, though the group represents just 10 percent of the state’s homeless population. The core reasons for Minnesota’s rising number of homeless seniors — which totaled 1,054 people in the recent count — are the same as those perpetuating housing disparities nationwide: low apartment vacancy rates, increasing rents and the rate at which public and private developers build affordable housing.
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