Suburban poverty rates soar in Twin Cities

5:59 PM, May 20, 2013   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS - The rate of poverty in Twin Cities suburbs is soaring, according to a study by the Brookings Institute.

The study ranks Minneapolis and St. Paul No. 9 among 100 metro areas since 2000.

The Brookings Institute indicates that in 2000, 89,895 Twin Cities suburbanites were classified as poor, while 204,901 met that classification in 2011.

Foodshelf and economic assistance workers say they have been seeing the rise for years.

"We have people in the suburbs that are homeless," said Pat Longs, Senior Case Manager of the Community Action Partnership of suburban Hennepin County. "One of the biggest problems they have is that they are afraid to come to the Hennepin County shelter because they are in the suburbs. They do not want to go to the shelter. So, they would rather sleep in their car."

Thousands of Hennepin County's homeless converged on the Minneapolis Convention Center Monday for the biannual Project Homeless Connect program. Volunteers offered free services on everything from housing to hiring to haircuts.

"I never thought I would be in this situation," said Lesa Virden, who has been living at Mission Lodge in Plymouth for two years. "It did surprise me how many different walks of life that come out to Mission."

Virden said she is getting some health issues in order before relocating to Worthington to live with other family members.

Transportation can be a huge issue for the new suburban poor. Longs said she has one client who has been walking to and from work in downtown Minneapolis from Brooklyn Park.

"They get off (work) at 2 or 3 in the morning, but buses stop running," said Longs.

She pointed to child care as another problem for the working poor in the county.

"We move them (clients) in Crystal, New Hope, that is the biggest problem we have is child care."

Longs noted that child care is available while someone is in a shelter, but not when they move out.

The Brookings Institute blames the state of the economy for the plight of the suburban poor, including job losses and foreclosures.

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