Rachel Zetah, community development with Central Minnesota Council on Aging, informed Cass County commissioners about homelessness in rural Minnesota Tuesday, Oct. 15.

There is a lack of homeless shelters in rural Minnesota, she said.

Homeless people are those who do not have a permanent home of their own, she added.

Rural homeless people may not be as visible. They rarely live in a tent city like in larger cities.

Instead, they live in an abandoned house, a house with no electricity/heat, a fish house, a car, a camper, a barn, a garage, a shed or a storage shed. They may be sleeping on someone else’s couch.

Zetah said a survey of homeless Minnesotans showed a 20% increase in the number of homeless ages 25 to 54 between 2015 and 2018 and a 25% rise in the number of homeless people over age 55. Another survey showed the homeless population age 55 and older doubled between 2009 and 2018.

A survey of homeless in Cass County this year identified 33 children, 13 youths and 19 adults. That did not count anyone sleeping on a friend’s couch.

Some causes leading to homelessness include having to pay more than 30% of income for housing, insufficient retirement income, chronic health conditions, domestic violence, high child care costs, home foreclosures and lack of reliable transportation.

Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, online at mnhousing.gov/sites/multifamily/homelessness, is the state’s lead agency to prevent homelessness.

Bi-County Community Action Programs, with offices in Walker, is a local contact to help people of all ages who face homelessness. Its offices can be reached by phone at 218-547-3438 or 800-332-7135.

Cass County Health, Human and Veterans Services helps all adults, including special programs for veterans. Its phone number is 218-547-1340. Lutheran Social Services, 888-828-4383, assists youths age 24 and younger. The Senior Linkage line for people age 60 and older is 800-333-2433.