Services for homeless to expand in rural parts of state
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Department of Human Services distributed incorrect information this week about funding for homeless shelters in greater Minnesota.
The department told MPR News on Tuesday that it awarded grants to fund the creation of five new shelters in Minnesota communities outside the Twin Cities metro area. The information was included in a story that MPR News published on its website Tuesday.
On Wednesday afternoon, the department informed MPR News that the information it supplied was incorrect. The department had awarded just one grant for a new shelter in greater Minnesota. The four other grants went to fund programs that were already in place in Cass Lake, Mankato, Faribault and Marshall. Two of those grants had been awarded in previous years.
"Our statement of the facts was faulty," DHS spokeswoman Jon Siess said in an email sent Wednesday. "We regret this. We wanted you to know."
A corrected version of the story is below.
By Madeleine Baran, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. -- The Minnesota Department of Human Services has awarded a $60,000 grant to help fund a new homeless shelter in rural Pine City.
The department also awarded two new grants to programs in greater Minnesota, as part of an effort to redistribute some state and federal money away from the metro area.
DHS has cut grants to several Twin Cities-based programs, including a drop-in center for homeless adults in St. Paul and a free voicemail service for low-income adults.
Advocates for the homeless said shelters are urgently needed in rural areas, but they said the government should spend more to avoid cuts to urban programs.
"I don't want to be pitting rural versus metro. There's just not enough resources to go around," said Patty Beech, the coordinator of homelessness prevention programs for six counties in northern Minnesota.
The changes were needed because the state had been relying on $10.6 million in one-time federal stimulus dollars to fund homelessness prevention and related programs throughout the state, said Beth Voigt, spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services. That funding expired on June 30.
Additionally, Voigt said, the number of people who are homeless has increased, and the agency did not receive any additional state or federal money.
Advocates said the rural shelters are urgently needed, particularly for women and children fleeing domestic violence.
Many rural women have few options for safe shelter, said Liz Kuoppala, executive director of the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless.
"We hear stories of single women in their tents, or moms and kids in their tents out in rural areas, and they're just worried for their safety," she said. "They shouldn't have to choose between hiding in the woods and staying in an abusive situation."
The Wilder Foundation estimates that one in three Minnesotans who are homeless live outside the Twin Cities.