MN homeless population on the rise

A new report released by Wilder Research has found that Minnesota’s homeless population is on the rise.

Wilder, with the assistance of non- profit agencies, conducted a point in time count and determined that more than 10,200 people are experiencing homelessness in Minnesota. That’s a 10 percent increase over 2015 (9,312 people) and the highest count since Wilder first began its triennial study in 1991 (3,079 people).

About two-thirds of the state’s homeless population is found in the Twin Cities metro area, and the remaining third in Greater Minnesota.

Thankfully, 55 families experiencing homelessness are receiving help from Village of Hope every single day, thanks to your donations and volunteer hours.

Other key findings from the Wilder report include:

  • Nearly half of people experiencing homelessness are youth ages 24 and younger.
  • Just over 25 percent of the homeless population(2,694 people) are not sleeping in shelters – they are sleeping outside or doubled up (staying with friends or family). That’s a 62 percent increase over 2015. Village of Hope continues to turn away children and their families and in 2018 turned away 317 individuals. This tells us that at least 25% of our homeless families are not able to find shelter.
  • While adults ages 55 and older make up the smallest age group of those experiencing homelessness (1,054 people), they saw the biggest increase in homelessness – up 25 percent since 2015.

The Wilder report represents homeless individuals contacted in emergency shelters, women’s shelters and transitional housing, as well as those found through outreach efforts at encampments, hot meal programs, and elsewhere. Wilder notes that the count underrepresents the total homeless population, since many people outside the traditional shelter system cannot be found.

I asked our families what they wish they could tell the world, and this is what they said.

“I am not a bad person- I just have had bad things happen.”

“I’m working so hard and nothing is happening.”

“I just need someone to care.”

“When you believed in me, I started to believe in myself!”

“I don’t know what I’d do without the Village of Hope.”

“I am not a homeless person, I am a person who happens to be homeless.”

“I’m working so my kids will have a better life than I did.”

These are just a few of the conversations we have at Village of Hope. When you sit across the table from a family or hold a sweet child in your lap, or become the first home that a brand new baby will know, their situation becomes very real.

Village of Hope is more than a place for a family to lay their heads or grab a meal. It is a place to plan for the future. The case management and collaboration we have with other mainstream organizations makes the difference between success and failure.  Emergency shelters are often the first line of defense for a homeless family but unfortunately, we are sorely underfunded and we don’t have enough emergency shelter beds for the need. Just like families experiencing homelessness we are used to making do and doing without.

Together we will make a difference in the lives of homeless children and their families.



The importance of home became very evident during the recent Homes for All Legislative Kickoff event in Bemidji on January 12, 2019. Community members, including people with lived experience of housing insecurity, gathered together to talk about the impact that home has on us all.

The most powerful part of the day was created by people sharing their stories of love, frustration, loss, and resiliency. The stories we heard connect the past and present to their future. Through the tears we learned that telling stories about very personal life situations is not easy, but that it gets to the heart of what’s important to us: our family and their safety and future.

It also became very clear that we all need to tell our story and that we all need someone to listen to us tell our story. We heard stories of people who continually got knocked down—either by loss of job, addiction, childhood poverty, mental illness or things that were out of their control—but got back up. Stories like the mother who lost her six children and her home: “I have to live with the fact that I will never see those kids again, but this is my year and I’m determined to make a better way for the two kids I have now.” Stories of people who lost their home and job but now are using their experience, by working in nonprofits, in the very place that helped them, to help others find and sustain housing. Stories of passionate people who go to work every day to make a difference but the needs in our community often outpace available resources and it is overwhelming. One thing that these stories taught us all is that where we live impacts everything and that the community of Bemidji knows that by working together we can start to find homes for all.

home for the holidays.png

During this season, our thoughts and hearts automatically turn towards home. We share memories and thoughts of holidays past. What does this season mean when you live and work in a family homeless shelter?  It definitely is a time for caring community members to reach out and share their time, and money with families. This happens often during the year but increases during this season of giving.  So, how can we extend this season of giving all year long and make a difference so all people are “home for the holidays.”

  1. Commit to becoming a Circle of Hope Member: This provides dedicated funds each month to continue the mission. $5.00 each month makes a difference!
  2. Host a party and ask each guest to bring a specific item. This could include a book of stamps, laundry detergent, dish soap, ream of copy paper, cleaning supplies, or pillows- you get the idea!
  3. In honor of your birthday, anniversary  or other special event,ask for donations rather than gifts, or start a go fund me page in honor of Village of Hope.
  4. Do you have a few extra hours each week? Sign up to volunteer and provide transportation to Dr. Appointments, Job Interviews, Housing Interviews or work.
  5. Do you belong to a group that is looking for speakers? Ask the Executive Director to share the work and mission of Village of Hope.
  6. If you have an idea or would like to get involved in anyway call and speak with the Executive Director.
  7. Homelessness is always with us but is felt much more strongly during this season. Please join me in thinking about home all year long.

Thanks for the HOPE!

November 29, 2016

Working at a Homeless Shelter for Families provides much opportunity to give hope to others but this past month I’ve had the chance to receive just as much as I give. This hope came in the form of our youth. Susan Eichstadt at Bemidji Middle School invited me to speak to all 4 classes about the truth about homelessness. In addition they are collecting supplies. Looking at their faces, engaged in my story gave me hope!

Today I met with Susan Richards class at Northern Elementary in Bemidji. Each year they tie  and collect warm blankets for the shelter. Today is was 48 blankets they donated! These elementary students were so excited to hear about how we help others and so excited to help.

Poverty and homelessness is complex and complicated and Village of Hope will not solve this problem on our own. I’m so thankful that we have partners that reach out to us on a daily basis. When others share hope the world is a much better place.

I want to thank everyone for sharing hope with us so we can pass it on!

It’s a new season here at Village of Hope!  And we’re all very excited about the things to come.  The things that are happening.

Speaking of things to come, I’m excited to publicly announce (for the very first time) that I’ll be moving here at the Village as of October 1st.  I’ve accepted a position as onsite staff, and as such will be moving into my new home in just a couple of short weeks.  So as the team prepares my new home for me, I’m packing my life away in boxes, and preparing to enter this new season.  I enter with excitement for what’s up ahead.

 When I was in the fifth grade, my teacher made us memorize this (what was at that time) this super weird poem.  It seemed to fit him, since he was also old, and weird.  He had wildly thick salt and peppered curly hair.  It was frizzy, and unkempt.  He wore glasses that always slipped to the tip of his large German nose.  He was in charge of the folk dancing club at school, of which I was a part of, only because it meant that I got to skip math class twice a week to go to performances.  But I digress…

So he made us memorize this poem, and I thought it was all very weird.  I did what the other fifth graders did:  I laughed my way through the entire recital to my class, then taking my seat, acting like I didn’t care to begin with.  Even as a fifth grader, I was dying to fit in.  But I didn’t know how this poem would ring true in my life.

It’s funny how things change.  It’s like the veil was lifted.  The scales fell from my eyes, and suddenly I could see:

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

I must admit, these words have become incredibly important to me.  Oh, my youthful ignorance.  I did not know then what I know now.

For one, I should not have skipped out on math class twice a week.  Maybe then I wouldn’t need a calculator for anything my fingers can’t handle.  F’real.  Then on the other hand, I didn’t know the way my heart would grow to care.  For hurting people.  For Village of Hope.

 Emma Lazarus was talking about the Statue of Liberty, and how it was to be a symbol of invitation and hope to those looking for safety in New York’s harbor.  But at Village of Hope, we desire to be a that same symbol for the people of Bemidji.

For the tired, a place to rest.  

For the weary, a place of provision.  A place of help.

For those huddled masses yearning to breathe free, a breath of fresh air.

And so we lift our lamps, and invite them in.  Day after day.  Week after week.  Month after month.  We desire to be a beacon of light in darkness.  A voice of hope to the hopeless.

And we’ve seen real change.
It’s possible.

It’s happening.

And we believe it’s true.


Get up, show up!

August 27, 2014

As the weather cools off here in Bemidji, we’re getting ready for fall!  We’ve got an incredibly short waiting list right now, and we’ve seen a lot of change over in families.  Good things are happening around here.  All good things… 

Right now, I can hear the hushed low voices in the office next to me.  Amanda is having a case management meeting with a client here.  Setting goals.  Taking steps.  Slowly, but surely making a way in the middle of what seems an impossible task: jobs blah blah, housing blah blah blah.  Gaining independence.  

This is what we do.  This is what we believe in.  Setting goals.  Taking action.  

…And it’s happening.  Right.  Now.  But then again, that’s kind of a thing around here.  It’s kind of…what we do.  

I wish I had something profound to tell you today.  I don’t.  Something to inspire.  I can’t.  Something to get us all a little more excited about life.  I don’t know how.  The truth is, I’d rather be napping.  Life is catching up with me.  My eyes are tired.  My back is sore.  My to do list is longer than the length of me.  

I’d love to tell you that hope comes easily.  I’d love to tell you that it never fades.  Never wavers.  Never changes.  Never disappoints.  But sometimes it does.  Sometimes we lose hope.  Sometimes we get tossed around and beat up.  Sometimes things change so fast, and we aren’t sure if we’re ever going to catch up.  

Are we?  

We wish things were different.  We wish we never felt like this.  Don’t we?  But the truth is, sometimes it’s a struggle to get out of bed in the morning.  Forget about doing laundry.  Washing dishes.  Paying bills.  We were down and out before we ever got up and running.  

How are we supposed to keep up with all that?  

Sometimes life is so… demanding… right?

Rich.  Or poor.

Full table.  Or empty belly.  

Homeless.  Or…not.  

Sometimes life expects too much.  Pushes too far.  Requires more than we can give.  

But the truth is, we have to try.  Since when do we get to just… give up?  I mean, I suppose that’s an option.  But not really.  Not if we’re ever going to make it out alive.  

Each one of those goals is a fear to be faced.  Around here it all goes something a little bit like this: 

  • Call on housing (Knowing that I may not have the means to pay for it, and I will probably get turned down.  Again.)
  • Apply for jobs (Because I’m not qualified, and I got fired from my last job, and I don’t really have much to go on…)

I know a guy who says you’ve got to show up to your own life.  Believe me when I tell you, that I don’t quite have all that figured out yet.  I still sleep waaaay to late most mornings.  

I lay in bed, and complain to myself, or to God, or to the ceiling.  “I don’t want to get up.  NO way.  I’m not doing it.  Too much to do today, and not enough in me to do it.”  Because even my own little life (it’s little, I know) is all just a little too much sometimes.  Even my little problems (as little as they are) seem really, very overwhelming sometimes.  

I get up, and groan, and grumble, and complain some more.  And after all that, I make a pot of coffee.  And after I’ve consumed every drop, the world seems a little brighter.  And I struggle.  And I strain.  And I find some way to make it through.  Just like the rest of us, I suppose.  And I think we all feel that.  At least a little.  Sometimes.  Don’t we?  

But the truth is, we have to grab a mug, and show up.  We just have to.  There’s no other way.  

Sometimes we lose hope.  But we’ll never get it back if we don’t even show up.  

And hope grows.  And life will beat us up a bit.  It will demand more than we have. It will require more than we can give.  And hope will grow.  Hope will heal.  

…we just have to find a way to show up.  


Hope is in the Maybe.

July 31, 2014

I don’t exactly know how to do this.  How to introduce myself, via the internet, on a blog.  How to say, “I’m Rachel, and this is my thing.  I blog, and I love Village of Hope.  So I’m doing that now.”  I suppose I just did, though.  

Let’s try this again.  

I’m Rachel.  And I love Village of Hope.  I believe in this place, and what we do here.  So here I am, to hash it all out.  I really hope to be a new voice for this place.  Because I believe in it, and I love it.  Who I really am, and what I actually do, doesn’t matter so much in the grand scheme of things.  But in case you’re curious, I cook at a nursing home.  I love what I do, but I do it to finance the things that I really like to do.  Like working here at the Village, where I can write to my heart’s content.  And work to make this place better.  So I do that now.  

I love this place, because hope really matters here.  It’s not just a cool catchy title or something.  Hope means something around here.  To these people.  To this staff.  And to me.  Hope means something to me.  To us.  

So a while back, I read something that really got to me.  

There I was, sitting on face book.  Doing what most of us do, I think.  Scrolling through my news feed, mindlessly reading about the dietary choices, and little adventures of all my face book friends.  And I came across one of those pintrest things.  

You know the ones.  The cute little pictures that say something sweet by Mother Theresa, or someone awesome like that.  


And there it was.  And I was mad.  Really, really mad.  

It looks awesome, doesn’t it?  

The fading night’s sky.  

The city lights.  

The cool, contrasting letters, that say the really awesome thing.  

We’ve all seen them.  We’ve all read them.  And on any given day, at just the right moment, maybe we even believed them.  

…But I was mad.  

I was mad, because it isn’t true.  

I was mad, because I think it’s a load of junk.  And I don’t buy it.  No, my cheesy pintrest addicts, I don’t buy it.  

Hope totally knows fear.  Hope knows just how ugly, and bad, and paralyzing fear can be.  But hope gets up.  Hope stands up, and refuses to be a victim.  Hope stares fear in the face and says, “Maybe…”.

Maybe it won’t be this way forever.
To the childless woman hope says, “Maybe I will get to be a mom.”
To the victim, hope says, “Maybe someday someone won’t hurt me the way he hurt me.”
To the jaded, hope says, “Maybe it won’t always go that way.”

To any person who has ever felt stuck hope says, “Maybe I can change.”  

And the truth is, I think that’s all of us.  


Hope is all wrapped up in the maybe.

It does not allow fear to paralyze  Instead, hope says, “I can conquer.  I will conquer.  I am a conqueror.”

Hope knows fear.  All too well, I think.  But hope refuses to let fear get in the way.  And I think that’s the point. Hope stands up, and stares fear in the face, and says, “Get out of my way.”

And it’s a battle.  The whole thing.  It’s one big fight.  Every day.  

We may come out of it a little banged up.  We might.  We might come out on the other side a little battered. And bruised.  And a little bit broken. 

But mostly okay.
And mostly on the mend.

Because we have hope.  

At Village of Hope, we’re about rehabilitating people from homelessness.  Giving hope.  Helping people to stand up, and face their lives.  And face their fear.  And change.  Really, really change.  

And we believe it’s possible.  

Hope takes us by the hand, and says, “Let’s try this again.”


March 11, 2014

What an blessing to come to work and help children tell their story of homelessness and work to make their story end happily! Relationships is the key to stories in the present and in the future. Every person you meet has a story, Take the time to listen to them tell their story. You’ll be so glad you did.

I am Somebody

December 18, 2013

I have been reflecting on 2013 and all the amazing opportunities the staff and volunteers at Village of Hope have had to make a difference in the lives of families.  We see lives changed every day! We couldn’t do it without the people who partner with us, when you share your time, talent and money you give help for today and hope for the future.

I challenge you all to be somebody this next week and make a difference!