When You Fall
by Dennis Sanders, Content Specialist
Supportive housing can make all the difference in the lives of at-risk youth and young adults. Since 2012, the Beacon collaborative has worked on creating three residences for this vulnerable population: Nicollet Square in Minneapolis, Prior Crossing in St. Paul, and 66 West in Edina. While the need for supportive youth housing remains great, it is making a huge impact in the lives of young adults here in Minnesota, allowing them to move from just trying to find ways to live from day to day to being able to see a future. One life that has changed for the better is Keyana.
In 2002, Keyana and her mother moved from her native Chicago to the Twin Cities hoping for a better life and a better future. However, what should have been the start of better days for the now-21-year-old turned out to be very some difficult years in her life.
Keyana explained that she didn’t have the best relationship with her mother. “I always tried hard to be perfect for my mother, but she always chose her boyfriends over me,” she explained. “She tried to put me in jail,” Keyana said of her mother. The result was that she was kicked out of the house more than once and bounced around schools, shelters and couches for years. Her childhood basically ended at age six when she had to stop playing with her dolls and start taking care of herself and the home because her mother wasn’t around.
Things began to change for the better when she started at the Minnesota Internship Center (MNIC) in 2014. In 2015, she began classes at a technical high school in Blaine, where she expects to graduate this year.
With her education settled, the next thing to deal with was finding a home. That happened in 2016 when she started living at Nicollet Square. Moving to the Minneapolis residence was huge. “It’s stable,” she said, “You have somewhere to lay your head.” She expressed a sense of thankfulness for the case workers from YouthLink who help with needs such as transportation. “I’m on my feet. I have a job.”
“I’m on my feet. I have a job.”
When youth and young adults have to face homelessness, they learn to fend for themselves, and it can be really hard to break out of that survival mode. It took Keyana awhile to do just that, but she says now that transitional housing options like Nicollet Square are not bad options for someone in a similar situation. “If you’re not ready to get into a $700- $800 apartment, don’t do it,” she says. “Look at the resources,” she adds, adding that there are case managers available to help them move from survival mode. These days she has a better relationship with her mother, who also happens to live nearby. It isn’t perfect, but she now has a place of her own where she can go when things are not so good with her mother.
Supportive housing empowers young adults to get out of survival mode and do something they haven’t been able to do in a long time: plan for a future. For Keyana, this means applying to college with the dreams of becoming a psychologist. She also dreams of being in a well-paying job by her mid-20s and living in a big house – maybe filled with children. With the help of Beacon and YouthLink, Keyana feels she’s on the right and bright path personally and career-wise.
What Keyana has learned is that there is a community of people, case managers, friends and others that are there to help her when things go south . Recalling a difficult time shortly after moving into Nicollet Square, where she was in a survival mode and trying to deal with a problem by herself, a case manager told her simply, “If you need to fall, you can.” Keyana realized she did have people around her to catch her when she fell. Supportive youth housing allows young people like Keyana to get out of living for simple survival and into a better future where they can be vulnerable, where they can ask for help, and where they can dream big dreams.