Why are more people homeless and sleeping outside?

A person holds a sign
Volunteers help Camp Nenookaasi residents pack their belongings as the city of Minneapolis clears the encampment on Jan. 30.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Last month the city of Minneapolis broke up one of the area’s largest homeless camps. More than 100 people had been living in tents and other temporary structures at Camp Nenookaasi for months.

The encampment is just one of many signs that an increasing number of people in Minnesota are living without stable shelter. People without housing are also riding Metro Transit buses and trains to find safety and warmth. They’re sleeping in out-of-the-way corners of the skyways and living in their cars.  

The reasons for the rise in unsheltered people are complex, and government and social services are struggling to respond. Last week, a faith-based organization in Ramsey County announced it would start putting up people in area churches to help house some of the families who are overwhelming Hennepin County’s emergency shelter program.

MPR News host Angela Davis talks about why we’re seeing a rise in visible homelessness and possible solutions.


  • Monica Nilsson has operated street outreach, shelter and housing programs in the Twin Cities area for 30 years. She serves on the boards of Trellis, a housing developer and property manager of 5000 units throughout Minnesota, Mile in My Shoes, whose mission is collective transformation through running and reducing social isolation and Peace House.

  • Sgt. Beverly Rodriguez oversees the Metro Transit Police Department’s Homeless Action Team. She and three outreach officers patrol buses, trains and transit centers and connect people without shelter to emergency shelter, housing vouchers and other resources.  

  • Milton Manning is a U.S. Navy veteran who once experienced homelessness. He currently serves as a justice consultant for the state’s Interagency Council on Homelessness and works at Peace House, a community center serving people sleeping outside and low-income adults in Minneapolis.

four people in broadcast studio
From left, Monica Nilsson, MPR News host Angela Davis, Milton Manning and Sgt. Beverly Rodriguez.
Nikhil Kumaran | MPR News

Subscribe to the MPR News with Angela Davis podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or RSS.  

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.    

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