St Louis County reports 18% increase in homelessness, mostly unsheltered

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Public Health & Human Services Dept. • 320 West Second Street, Suite 605 • Duluth, MN 55802
Phone: (218) 726-2096 •

Linnea Mirsch




July 1, 2020

CONTACT: Will Wilson, Continuum of Care Coordinator

(218) 725-5158


St. Louis County reports 18% increase in homelessness, mostly unsheltered

It's been five months since St. Louis County, working with community partners, completed its annual Point in Time count to determine how many individuals and families are experiencing homelessness. Now the results have been analyzed and released, and it shows an 18% increase in homelessness in St Louis County.


The Point in Time survey is done each year in January in communities across the country. The survey counts those in emergency shelters, such as CHUM in Duluth or Bill’s House in Virginia. Additionally, volunteers survey individuals and families who are “unsheltered” in the community - people whose primary nighttime residence is not fit for habitation, such as a car, abandoned building or storage unit, or in the woods. 


In St Louis County, the total number of individuals experiencing homelessness in 2020 is 612. That's an increase from 519 reported in 2019. Meanwhile, the number of individuals reported as unsheltered has increased dramatically, from 183 in 2019 to 284 in 2020.


For the 2020 count, some of the increase may be attributed to expanded outreach and capacity compared to previous years. St. Louis County increased the number of volunteers, and the number of locations where surveys were administered.


“We increased the capacity to count people, and there were more people to count," said Will Wilson, Continuum of Care Coordinator for St Louis County. "But the data reported shows that the need for solutions is even more pressing. And it's important to note this survey took place before COVID-19 hit. We need more resources to address every aspect of the problem. More emergency shelter space, more permanent supportive housing, and especially more affordable housing.”


Survey data also shows that communities of color are disproportionately impacted by homelessness.  African American and American Indian populations account for around 4% of the total population of St Louis County, but account for almost 40% of those experiencing homelessness. 


Surveys are analyzed for duplication and accuracy before reporting. Reporting the survey data was delayed two months due to COVID-19 priorities. 


This annual survey is vital because it helps define the scope and scale of the problem, and the data is used to determine federal funding awarded to fight homelessness. There is a coordinated effort to reach specific groups experiencing homelessness, including veterans, youth, communities of color, and those fleeing domestic violence.