Nonprofit and University of Minnesota police team up to help homeless

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A new partnership between a nonprofit and the University of Minnesota Police Department aims to better locate homeless people in need.

Campus police told FOX 9, there are homeless people of all ages setting up camp at the university, sometimes even inside the buildings. Now, police are working on a new plan to get them to a more stable situation.

“We do have them inside buildings, we have them outside as well,” said Officer Christopher Fonseca. “This is an urban environment, so there’s a homeless population all around the city and campus.”

Recent numbers out from a one-day statewide study done last year showed homelessness was up 10 percent from three years ago. Some of those folks are seeking out a place to sleep on campus.

“Some groups will set up camp in the area, some will be sleeping on couches, things like that,” said Officer Fonseca.

UMPD is teaming up with St. Stephen’s, a local nonprofit working to end homelessness.

“We know because there is access to 24 hour spaces at the University of Minnesota, the light rail runs right through there, so people are getting off and people are accessing different spaces at the U of M,” said Michael Huffman, director of outreach and shelter at St. Stephen’s.

The agencies have worked together informally in the past, but are now finalizing a contract to make things more official. Over the next year, St. Stephen’s will ride along with U of M police, to find where those in need are, reach out to them and get them help.

“We’ve seen that number increase each year to the point that in Hennepin County, we estimate that there’s about 740 folks that are unsheltered,” said Huffman.

It’s a partnership that will benefit St. Stephen’s too as they try to cover as much ground as they can in the county.

“What it does is really allows us to pinpoint our services better,” said Huffman. 

The contract between U of M police and St. Stephen’s is for one year, for now. Both sides are hoping it goes well. The partnership could potentially be more long-term with more boots on the ground helping to end homelessness.