Mayor’s memo: Homelessness in Bloomington

By Mayor Tim Busse

While homelessness is not a new issue, it is one that’s grown over the last few years. It’s a challenge that impacts not just our city, but our state and our nation.

In Bloomington, the issue became more noticeable due to COVID-19. Make no mistake,  there have always been homeless people in Bloomington. With its social distancing and economic shifts, COVID-19 added to the challenges of homelessness and keeping people safe. 

For many in our community, the cost of housing is a growing stress, and the housing insecurity they feel is difficult to contain. Rents and the cost of buying continue to rise, incomes don’t always keep up and increases in fixed benefits rarely keep pace with increased living expenses too often the end result is that adequate housing slips out of reach. Homeless individuals share a common thread—low income or lack of income altogether. Most people experiencing homelessness are living on an income below 30% of the area median income, which is $21,000 for an adult or $30,000 for a family of four.   

This past year has led to an increased awareness of the unsheltered population in Bloomington and their needs. It has also jump-started the conversation of how to build housing capacity and other measures the City could take to help with homelessness and housing insecurities. 

Our innovative opportunity housing ordinance is an important part of the City’s plan to address homelessness. While the ordinance encourages developers to build affordable housing, economic realities make these projects hard to finance. Developers face a lower return on investment when they build units which are the most affordable. 

One recent success is a housing subsidy program that helps residents in need remain in their homes. Our partners at Volunteers Enlisted to Assist People provide rental subsidies to landlords so renters in financial stress can avoid eviction and keep from entering the homeless system. The Bloomington Housing and Redevelopment Authority provided a financial contribution to VEAP to help fund the housing subsidy program. 

These efforts are ongoing and continue to make a difference. Together we can promote housing security in our community.

How you can help

Local nonprofit groups can always use a helping hand. Consider giving some of your time. Cash donations are another option if that is in your budget. Some groups have a need for donations of food, supplies and other staples. To find a list of nonprofits and other information, visit blm.mn/giveback or call 952-563-8700.