MINNESOTA’S INNOVATIVE RESPONSE TO ENDING HOMELESSNESS:
Finding Permanency in Housing and Transforming Health
Hearth Connection is an innovative nonprofit partnering with government, nonprofits and tribes to divert
persons experiencing long-term homelessness from costly ‘crisis management’ toward stability. Homelessness is a
health care issue and our attempt to reframe government involvement in health systems should consider efficient
services to homeless Minnesotans already served through other government interventions and treatment. Since
2005, Hearth Connection staff have coordinated regional, cross-county collaboratives to identify adults, veterans,
and families with children who are involved with multiple public systems and services and stabilize their lives by
combining human and health services with housing support.
Hearth Connection integrates health services with housing. Hearth Connection serves as an intermediary
developing an extensive IT system, coordinating financial resources, evaluating services, and training personnel.
These functions allow small community-based providers to focus on high-quality direct services. Our data-driven
approach has resulted in measurable outcomes by breaking the cycle of homelessness, stabilizing housing,
diverting households from repeated reliance on public service systems, and restoring health. Our seminal
research pilot, funded by the State and the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, found remarkable progress in
creating recovery for persons experiencing long histories of homelessness and cost shifts away from detox, jails,
and emergency rooms toward more preventative and primary care for our participants.
Hearth Connection is well aware of the budget crisis facing Minnesota and the need to make reductions in state
appropriations. Public and private partners must find new ways to build collaborative efforts, reform the delivery
of services, and find greater efficiencies. Restoring fiscal strength will require sacrifice and reductions in state
systems of care. Hearth Connection’s data-driven, accountable and cost shifting model of services is the type of
model needed to help Minnesota address and end long-term homelessness, even in times of declining revenue.
Targeting Limited Funding for Priority Human Services and Health Care
Minnesota leaders recognize the need to prioritize health and human services on essential work areas. Hearth
Connection and our partnering agencies offer assistance to individuals that are highly vulnerable and disabled:
Each year we serve over 1,800 participants who have experienced,
on average, 2.4 years of continued homelessness
70 percent have histories of serious mental health disabilities
62 percent exhibit dependency on alcohol or chemicals and have
received treatment before
16 percent experience chronic health disorders or terminal illness
5 percent are homeless veterans
37 percent are families with minor children and 8 percent are homeless youth on-their-own
Minnesota families, veterans, and disabled adults who experience long-term homelessness often cycle through
multiple health and human services systems. Many of these expensive services could be avoided or reduced if we
were able to integrate housing with health care to address root causes.
In 2005, Governor Pawlenty and the Legislature pointed to a more efficient and targeted use of health care and
housing resources. Minnesota’s Business Plan to End Long-Term Homelessness called for an end to efforts to
simply manage the crisis of homelessness and begin to target public investments in evidence-based interventions
and solutions that showed positive and measurable outcomes. The state’s Business Plan supported
appropriations to the Long-Term Homelessness Supportive Services Fund (LTHSSF) and the Minnesota Housing
Trust Fund (HTF). Hearth Connection is proud of our involvement in the State’s Plan, managing a network of
supportive housing and providing the state with measurable results and data. Hearth Connection remains at the
intersection of key state services prioritized to protect the most vulnerable in our state. Minnesota should not
abandon the Plan’s priorities or its approach.
State Resources should be Targeted to Evidence-based Interventions
Minnesota’s approach to ending long-term homelessness should remain focused on evidence-based
interventions. Effectively serving persons experiencing long-term homelessness will require approaches that
Prevention and early intervention;
Permanent supportive housing;
Health care access and recovery from mental health or chemical
addition disabilities; and
Analysis of data, outcome measures, and system accountability.
Minnesota’s Business Plan has adopted these approaches and produced remarkable, positive outcomes in the
past six years. Hearth Connection has utilized state funds (Long-Term Homeless Supportive Services Fund and the
Housing Trust Fund) in three regional projects to track outcomes, data, and measurable results. Through
evaluation of provider services, Hearth Connection can show the state the following results with participants
entering our supportive housing network:
secured permanent housing placement for 73% of households within two months, and 93% of households
after six months;
increased access to health care to address participants’ serious health impairments;
reduced monthly substance use by an average of 5 days;
improved access to affordable and more reliable child care for homeless children; and
secured employment for 240 household representing 19 percent of all participants.
Additionally, Hearth Connection’s research pilot, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson
Foundation, showed a shift in costs from prison, inpatient services and detox to outpatient
services, pharmacy costs, and income support. Through stabilization and intensive services,
our model reduces reliance on public systems of care.
Hearth Connection remains committed to the goal of ending long-term homelessness and seeks to continue its
innovative collaboration with our state and community partners. Further questions regarding data, research, and
evidence-based interventions to serve persons experiencing long-term homelessness can be directed to Richard
A. Hooks Wayman, Executive Director, Hearth Connection, at firstname.lastname@example.org; 651-645-0676 (ext.