Dakota County Takes Action on Homelessness in Communities


Annie Stefanko

Dakota County Takes Action on Homelessness in Communities

Dakota County Libraries have made adjustments, to stay relevant during the time of Covid

The Dakota County Library is a great resource to turn to when in need of help. The library director, Margaret Stone, focuses on allowing people to come into the library and stay safe during these difficult times.

“[I] believe that [the] libraries can make a big impact,” Mrs. Stone says.

Because of Covid, the libraries in Dakota County have made new adjustments for people. If someone is coping with mental issues, the libraries have certain people that others can talk to. All they have to do is book an appointment with someone that can address their needs. There are snacks the libraries provide at all locations in Dakota County.

However, guidelines have been put in place for resident’s safety. People can only be inside the buildings for an hour with a mask on at all times, and they are allowing curb-side pickup for book orders.

Dakota County Libraries has seen people of all ages come in for help, including teenagers. “It is a bigger challenge [because] they are minors,” says Mrs. Stone. The libraries know that teenagers are scared to ask for help after they have left their homes. When they ask for help, the libraries will provide resources for them.

For anyone looking at applying for a job, the Dakota County libraries have partnered with Career Force to help others with the interviewing process. People have learned to write resumes and develop headshots.

The deputy director in the county social services department, Madeline Kastler, is in charge of Housing and homelessness. The libraries work closely with her to “offer any needed services to [people] experiencing homelessness.” Her department helps provide housing, street outreach, drop-in centers, and shelters for the homeless.

The County Social Services department is close partners with the Dakota Libraries. There are drop-in centers held at the libraries, so people can go in to warm up or to find help.

Another resource through Dakota County that residents can turn to is hotels. There are 104 shelter hotel units in total. “Hotels were reaching out to our department,” Mrs. Kastler said. “This was really fortunate.”

However, Kastler and her department have seen an increase in people out on the streets due to Covid. There is a street-outreach program that people can talk to. This program will send people outside to help residents out on the streets.

The County Social Services department has noticed an increase in homelessness in certain communities and races. According to Kastler, “there is a big homeownership gap between white people and people of color.” She says, “How do we get rid of these gaps? We need to find other ways to stop this and get the word out.”

Kastler and her peers use social media as a way to send a message to Dakota County citizens about this problem.

Another way to bring attention to this issue is if residents are looking to help the homeless, they can reach out to local libraries and ask how they can help. People can also attend or host fundraisers. Dakota County encourages people, such as high school students, to raise awareness of homelessness.

“Knowledge and being educated about this is a big deal,” Kastler says.

Students can check out there website here for any openings: