Office to End Homelessness

If you are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of homelessness, please contact Hennepin County Human Services 612-348-4111.

Heading Home Hennepin is the City of Minneapolis and Hennepin County community’s 10-year plan to end homelessness by 2016. 

The plan was developed over the course of 100 days in 2006 by a commission of representatives from federal, state, and local governments; business, nonprofit, faith and philanthropic communities; and homeless and formerly homeless citizens. Championed by hundreds of business, faith, philanthropic, government and advocacy leaders, Heading Home Hennepin is a model for similar initiatives nationwide. 

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Family shelter network

The family service network is a working group of Heading Home Hennepin. Its purpose is to discuss issues and trends affecting families who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness, in Hennepin County. The group develops annual action items focused on improving the homeless service system for families and recommendations for the Office to End Homelessness on issues related to family homelessness. The group meets the second Friday of each month at 11:30 a.m. The location varies among partner agencies.

For more information, please contact Kristen Brown at 612-543-1640 or

Stable families initiative

Over about 18 months, the Stable Families Initiative has helped to reduce family shelter use overall by more than 18 percent, and set a course to reduce the number of families returning to shelter once they are established in housing.

Launched in Hennepin County in 2014, the initiative is a collaborative pilot program, designed to reduce repeat emergency shelter use by families with children. It is funded by a blend of federal, state, and county dollars, seven local foundations and an award from Ideas for Action.

Stable families initiative report (PDF)

The issue: Families returning to emergency shelter

In 2013, Hennepin County observed that 25 percent of families in emergency shelter had been there before, twice the number five years before. These families that returned to shelter were younger, with less education and work experience. They were disproportionately African American or Native American. Preventing these families’ return to shelter could have saved the community $1.5 million in shelter costs per year, in addition to the trauma that homelessness causes.

Our solution: Holistic support for families

The Stable Families Initiative focuses on an intentional and targeted response to repeat shelter users. These families have higher barriers to stability, and their children have lived in unstable situations for several years. The model focuses on supporting families beyond traditional Rapid Rehousing Services, acknowledging that standard services had been insufficient to stabilize their housing before.

The Stable Families Initiative has three main components, and holds promising lessons for both prevention and intervention approaches.

Prevention: Office to End Homelessness staff focused outreach efforts on 80 of the families that had used emergency shelter during the past two years. Staff sent letters twice during the first half of 2014, offering services to help prevent shelter re-entry. More than half of the families responded; most were on the verge of losing their housing again. The prevention program kept most of the families out of shelter, and created a lower return-to-shelter rate, compared to the 80 families in a control group.

Coordinated Services: Families that are at risk for return to emergency shelter are offered parent supports and enhanced employment services to assist them in gaining
independence. They are directed to a dedicated team that helps them to navigate county and community resources.

Young Parent Pilot: A subset of young parents were offered intensive case management, early childhood services and a two-year rent subsidy, in addition to the enhanced
employment and parent support services. The purpose of the pilot is to test whether this intervention reduces return-to-shelter rates. The intervention can be replicated at a system-wide level. Hennepin County is examining ways to make this model “business as usual” for a targeted group of families who face high barriers to stable housing.

The outcomes: Reducing shelter use

The overarching outcomes of the Stable Families Initiative are reductions in repeat shelter entry and in overall shelter demand.

Number of families in county-contracted family shelter

2013-2015 by month
Numbers refer to shelter occupancy on a single night each month.
Number of families in county-contracted family shelter

In addition:

24 percent of the families enrolled in the prevention program returned to shelter, compared to 34 percent in the control group.

Two percent of the families in the young parent pilot returned to shelter, compared to 13 percent in the control group For families with income, average monthly income rose from $593 in 2014 to $912 in early 2015.


Funding for the Stable Families Pilot project comes from the philanthropy community, as well as federal, state and local funds.


Heidi Schmidt Boyd


Policymakers, practitioners, and academics generally think about homelessness as a problem afflicting three distinct demographic groups: families, single adults, and youth. However, depending on one’s definition of “youth,” these groups can become quite fluid. Using one commonly agreed-upon definition of youth as an unaccompanied person under the age of 25, there were more than 1,350 youth in family and single adult shelters in 2012 Many of these youth may have experienced homelessness as children; some may have interacted with the youth service world; others may be newly homeless.  

Youth 25 and younger make up a large proportion of clients in Hennepin County shelters. Their numbers are growing. 

In 2006, there were approximately 500 youth in single adult shelters and 375 heads of households in family shelters. 

In 2012, there were approximately 680 youth in single adult shelters and 545 heads of households in family shelters. 

While categories may help to define populations, the fact remains that today one in five “adults” in Hennepin County shelters are “youth.”

Single adults

Top 51

The Top 51 pilot program provides intensive engagement with the higher users of county contracted single adult shelter, to move them into housing. Program participants were identified through administrative systems and enrolled into the program. Most had been in shelter since the 1990s, and previous attempts at housing had failed. The pilot program includes two contracts with Catholic Charities and Salvation Army for $713,675 for the two and a half years of the pilot program, July 1, 2012 through December 31, 2014.

Outcomes to date

  • 63 percent are housed (46 of 73). 
  • The average time to housing is eight months
  • For 20 clients housed at least one year, emergency room visits declined by 84 percent and ambulance runs declined by 79 percent.
  • Primary care doubled.
  • For the original 55 clients in the pilot, police arrests/citations declined by 17 percent

Lessons Learned:

  • Intensive engagement was the key to the success.
  • Redirecting funds to engagement and housing demonstrated a significant return on investment in other costly areas such as emergency medical treatment and criminal justice.
  • This pilot started a cultural shift in shelter, for both staff and clients, to keep shelter as an emergency response and not a long-term solution.
  • A steering committee made up of multiple disciplines held all partners accountable to the results and allowed for creative solutions for people stuck in shelter.

Continuum of care

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development McKinney-Vento Continuum of Care Program provides resources for the development of supportive and transitional housing for homeless single adults, families and unaccompanied youth. Funding is used for the acquisition, construction, and rehabilitation of housing, as well as leasing and rental assistance, and support services.

Minneapolis CoC Funding Committee Members March 2016 (PDF)

Continuum of Care information - Minnesota Housing Finance Agency

2016 Collaborative Application (PDF)

2016 CoC funding timeline (PDF)

2016 CoC funding priorities policy (PDF)

2016 appeals process (PDF)

2016 NOFA review criteria for new and renewal projects (PDF)

2016 Minnesota grant inventory worksheet (XLSX)

2016 Point in Time count (PDF)

2016 CoC ranking (PDF)

2016 renewal criteria (PDF)

2015 grantees

See the list of 2015 recipients of Continuum of Care funding. Grantee list (PDF)

Organizational description

The Heading Home Hennepin Initiative to End Homelessness is the overall organization for the continuum of care. This initiative of both the City of Minneapolis and Hennepin County is responsible for the implementation of the Heading Home Hennepin 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness.

Membership of the continuum of care is composed of the stakeholders and community members participating in Heading Home Hennepin community meetings, forums, and its various committees and workgroups (many of which are listed below). Members included elected officials, local government agencies, private and public services and housing providers, education, philanthropic organizations and funders, faith communities, and members who are homeless and formerly homeless.

The governing body for the Heading Home Hennepin Initiative and the continuum of care is the executive committee, which includes political and administrative leadership of the city and the county, as well as other stakeholders and private sector leaders. Staffing for the initiative is the Office to End Homelessness (Director: Mikkel Beckmen), accountable administratively both to the city and the county, as well as the executive committee. The role of the executive committee is to provide overall policy direction and oversight for the continuum of care and to implement the goals of the 10-Year plan.

Primary committees and groups

Continuum of care McKinney-Vento housing and funding

Staff: Laura DeRosier
Task: Facilitates implementation of the housing opportunity goals in the 10-year plan to end homelessness, through HUD McKinney-Vento funding.  This includes continuum of care program-funded project solicitation, review and selection; completion of the continuum of care collaborative application, overseeing the Homeless Point-in-Time (PIT) count and the housing inventory chart, and conducting ongoing performance evaluation of continuum of care program-funded projects.

Homelessness prevention and assistance 

Staff: Julia Welle Ayres
Task: Facilitates implementation of the rapid rehousing and homeless prevention recommendations in the 10-year plan.  This includes building on the continuum of care's successful homeless prevention and assistance program for single adults, families with children and youth, providing oversight and direction for the Rapid Re-Housing from homelessness system and its related funding: State family homeless prevention and assistance program, Housing and Urban Development emergency solutions grant and the continuum of care program.

Emergency shelter

Staff: Danielle Werder
Role: To enhance the collaborations and the effectiveness of the community's single adult shelter system.  As a systems improvement strategy in the 10-year plan, the planning group identifies policy and programmatic barriers for single adult shelters, coordinates services for adults in shelter, and facilitates more effective community-wide strategies to ending single adult and chronic homelessness.

Family service planning

Staff: Julia Welle Ayres
Task: Enhance the collaborations and the effectiveness of the community's family support system, with special emphasis on the well-being of children who are homeless. As a systems improvement strategy in the 10-year plan, the committee identifies policy and programmatic barriers for family shelters, coordinates services for families in shelter, and facilitates more effective community-wide strategies to ending family homelessness.

Service delivery and opportunity centers planning

Staff: Danielle Werder
Task: Implement service delivery and self-support goals in the 10-year plan, including improving processes at daytime opportunity centers, where people can connect with multiple services in one location. This committee assisted with development of the opportunity centers, one for youth and one for single adults, and is now charged with conducting service gaps analysis and improving processes to best serve the individuals accessing services there.

Coordinated entry

New Federal rules require all Continuum of Care communities to establish and operate a coordinated assessment system.

Coordinated assessment can be a powerful tool designed to ensure that homeless people are matched with the right intervention, as quickly as possible. It standardizes the access and assessment process for all clients and coordinates referrals across all providers. When providers assess clients using the same process and all programs accept these assessments for prioritization, then participants can be served with the most appropriate intervention, rather than first come, first served.

Hennepin's coordinated assessment system will be designed to allow anyone who needs assistance to know where to get help, to be assessed in a standard and consistent way, and quickly connect with the housing or services that best meet their needs.  

Keys to a successful program

Easy access to information

A clear, easy, and well-advertised process to know where and how to access services. Those seeking shelter often are subjected to rumor, word on the street, and misinformation.  A well-advertised service would create a 911-type program for people, so that all who are in need of information can get a quick answer. This may include integration with 211, smartphone apps, advertising campaigns, and word of mouth campaigns. 

A consistent tool for providers

A standardized and comprehensively used assessment tool that matches families and individuals to a menu of services that are tailored to their needs. All providers using the same assessments and linked to the same data system will reduce the number of times a client fills out paperwork. This will reduce discrepancies in service and will provide a global understanding of that client's needs, no matter where they access services. Progressive engagement allows providers to target clients with the appropriate services, depending on the client's need. Someone who needs short term assistance will get a briefer, more targeted intervention than someone who may have been homeless for several years and has other major barriers to stable shelter. An assessment will only include a question if the answer is needed at that moment to determine next steps.

Standardized referrals

Coordinated and formulaic referrals across the entire continuum to match households to those appropriate resources. Every provider will use the same criteria for referrals and acceptance into programming and housing. This will ensure that the existing services are used as efficiently as possible and will reduce the amount of work that is associated with a "scatter-shot" approach.  A coordinated wait list that all providers use will reduce time on multiple wait lists, and will allow for a clear understanding of what is available across the continuum of services.  Creating these referrals will require developing common standards for all forms of housing and supports. 

Data to measure success

Extensive data and outcomes for every program in the community to identify emerging strategies, under-utilized models and under-performing programs. Understanding how our referral process and programs are working, and seeing program and client outcomes as we implement coordinated assessment will allow the community to right-size certain strategies or programs, and address deficits in others.  A system of continuous improvement is important not only for system wide outcomes, but also for provider buy-in and accountability.

Information for shelter providers

Shelters will have a more coordinated intake process that will mirror that used by other shelters in the community, and will be consistent throughout. This may include an intake process based on progressive engagement models that ratchets up assessment and services as a person stays longer. The intake process will also be linked to HMIS, so if someone accesses shelter who is engaged in other services, that will be clear on intake and services can be planned accordingly. Coordinated referral will also take the guesswork out of applying for programming, as our hope is to have an automatic referral process based on information from the intake and assessment. This will likely include unified priority lists for housing, and direct and automatic referrals to services, and will reduce the amount of time any particular staff spends looking and applying for services. Other enhancements could include swipe card capability, online bed reservations, and considerably better reporting methods.

Research and training

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