MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- One drives a bus for DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis. Another sells Krispy Kreme doughnuts in New Brighton. One works in an animal testing lab at the University of Minnesota and one is a gravedigger at Fort Snelling.
All are homeless.
Monica Nilsson, director of Simpson Housing Services, maintains the informal employment record at Simpson's two Minneapolis shelters, where people who signed in last year included office clerks, counter attendants, laborers and caregivers. Many reported working full-time and earning between $7 and $11 an hour.
"It says to me that society's impression of a homeless person as some inebriated, dirty cast-off is wrong," Nilsson said. "The people driving your kids to school, making your food and cutting your hair may be homeless, at least for the period of life they're in now."
The list of employers reads like a metro business directory: a nursing home, a car wash, a child-care center, Target, Lunds, Hamline University, the U.S. Postal Service, The Gap. Gas stations, salvage yards and fast-food restaurants made the list. So did manufacturing companies and the Hennepin County Department of Corrections.
Nilsson and other advocates for the homeless warn legislators that deep budget cuts could throw hundreds more Minnesotans on the street -- including many who are working but can't afford housing.
Some advocates for affordable housing already have had to rework budgets after cuts ordered Friday by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, whose "unallotments" were necessary to erase a $281 million state budget deficit for 2003.
And at the Dorothy Day Center in St. Paul, director Darrell Cox said he had had to cut his budgets for shelter, meals and other programs by more than 10 percent -- from $1.8 million to $1.6 million -- even before the state budget crisis loomed.
"The main impact we had in the past year has been (reduced donations), a result of 9/11 and the scandal in the Catholic Church, and soon I think we'll be impacted by reductions in what we receive from United Way," he said.
"It already was looking sort of bleak. We had to make some staff cuts this year, and if we cut (further) we would be at a dangerous level."
It isn't just cuts in direct state assistance to shelters that have the advocates worried.
"It seems a lot of services will be cut, and that will create more barriers for a lot of folks to get away from the shelters and into housing," said Brian Reichert, who works at the St. Stephen's Catholic Church shelter in south Minneapolis.
If general assistance funding is cut, "That would have a really big effect on us," Reichert said. "A lot of guys, that's their only income -- a couple hundred bucks plus food stamps. They can use that for board and lodging." Cutbacks could increase pressure on already crowded shelters.
The 40-bed St. Stephen's shelter is always full, with a lottery held each night for the few beds that may be open. People who don't win a bed for the night are referred to an "emergency safe-waiting area" maintained by Catholic Charities at 519 Portland Av.
Simpson Housing Services, which operates about 65 beds in its two shelters, expects to lose $20,000 of $60,000 in state assistance after Friday's unallotments, Nilsson said. Most of the shelters' annual budgets -- one at $200,000, the other $380,000 -- come from grants, private donations and city and county funding, she said.
But like all other programs and agencies that receive state funding, shelter providers are worried about much larger cuts when the state deals with a $4.2 billion deficit for the coming biennium.
State funding now helps provide more than 400 "emergency overflow" beds in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Nilsson said, including 20 beds reserved for women at Simpson.
"Those are funded now through April 15," Nilsson said. "What that means is if those sites close on April 15, we'll have potentially 400 more people sleeping outside."
Homeless advocates estimate that 500 people sleep outside in Minneapolis now, plus about 200 in St. Paul, either because they can't find shelter space or choose for various reasons to stay outside.
"People think, 'Oh, the homeless won't freeze in April,"' Nilsson said. "But it's not safe for men or women to sleep outside. Besides safety, you're not clean if you sleep outside. You're not fed if you sleep outside. You have no storage space. And if you have a job, how productive are you going to be tomorrow at work?"
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