Heading off Homelessness

Photo: From left, Heading Home Hennepin's Lisa Thornquist, Humphrey School's Maria Hanratty and CURA's Kathie Doty.

Heading Home Hennepin is a comprehensive plan developed by advocates, business and civic leaders, agencies and individuals who have experienced homelessness to end homelessness in the City of Minneapolis and Hennepin County. Managed through the Minneapolis/Hennepin County Office to End Homelessness, the plan focuses on six key areas: prevention, outreach, housing opportunities, service delivery improvements, capacity building for self-support, and system improvements.

With assistance from the University of Minnesota Center for Urban and Regional Affair's Hennepin-University Partnership, Heading Home Hennepin research and evaluation director Lisa Thornquist partnered with the Humphrey School of Public Affairs associate professor Maria Hanratty, to create a graduate student research project to identify patterns of shelter use among families in Hennepin County.

The resulting report—Family Homelessness in Hennepin County: A Mixed Methods Examination of the Rapid Exit Program and Patterns of Shelter Mobility —found an upward trend and higher return rate to shelters by young parents. The study helped launch Hennepin County’s Stable Families Initiative, which includes new or refocused interventions for families at risk of re-entering a shelter.

The student-driven research project has also had a major impact on the actions of city and county leaders, says Thornquist. “The high quality of the information has also helped to engaged foundations—seven of which have shown their support through contributions that supplement critical county, state and federal funds.”

The Heading Home Hennepin plan recently received national attention for its help in reducing family shelter use in Hennepin County by 30 percent in the last year— a significant accomplishment given homeless rates for families are increasing in other urban centers.