By Lee Blons | It is shocking for most people to learn that on any given night there are 4,000 youth ages 16-21 who are homeless on their own. Roughly half of those youth are in Minneapolis and St Paul. But the other half are trying to find a safe place to be in Bloomington, Brooklyn Park, Bemidji, and everywhere in between.
There are many contributing factors to why a young person becomes homeless but the simplest explanation is that they think that the streets will be safer than their own home.
The Homeless Youth Act’s current appropriation of $4 million helps meet the specific needs of a wide range of communities from greater Minnesota to the Twin Cities suburbs and the urban core.
Sadly, more is needed. Some communities lack any options for such young people. Yet their needs are complex, their numbers are growing, and they’re at a critical juncture between adolescence and adulthood – where an investment can make a significant difference in their futures.
Addressing homelessness at this critical developmental period can prevent long-term homelessness, reduce the risk of sexual exploitation and involvement in the criminal justice system, support youth to complete and continue in school, and support future taxpayers and members of the workforce.
Here’s an example of how housing and services make a difference:
Sean, a young tenant at Nicollet Square, was kicked out of an abusive home when he was only 16. He stayed safe by sleeping on trains at night and walking the streets during the day.
Sean moved into Nicollet Square at the age of 20 after spending a year on the waiting list.
Supportive housing such as Nicollet Square provides an apartment with supportive services right on site. There, funding from the Homeless Youth Act provides a transition coach who works individually with each youth to help them with employment, education and dealing with the trauma of abuse and homelessness.
Since moving into Nicollet Square, Sean has earned his high school diploma, and he has finished his first semester of community college.
Sean is employed, first getting a job through our “work fast” employment program that subsidizes wages for a few months as an incentive for employers to hire our young people. We average employment within 2 weeks of moving in.
This is just one story of the 30 programs funded by the Homeless Youth Act across the state to help young people like Sean invest in themselves.
But did Sean really need to be homeless for 4 years? Beacon is ready to build youth housing in St Paul and in Edina - others are ready in Brooklyn Park and Bemidji.
Let’s end youth homelessness.
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