Minnesota joins nationwide 100-day challenge to fight youth homelessness

100 days to help 150 youth find jobs and stable housing.

Hennepin County has joined a nationwide effort to combat youth homelessness.

It's a 100-day challenge to help 150 youths – people between the ages of 16-24 – get out of homelessness and find stable housing. 

Along with that, the goal is for at least 75 percent of the group to secure employment – either a job, job training, or a paid internship, Hennepin County said in a news release

Hennepin County was among five communities selected by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which will provide funding.

David Hewitt, director of Hennepin County’s Office to End Homelessness says the county's application was picked because of its "unique approach to thinking more creatively about housing for youth, along with how to support them to have livable wage employment opportunities.” 

The initiative kicked off on Wednesday. The other chosen counties and cities participating are Baltimore, Maryland; Columbus, Ohio; Palm Beach County, Florida; and Louisville, Kentucky.

The plan

It'll require a community effort to complete the goal over the next 100 days.

The team working on the task includes homeless youth providers, employment providers and youth, and is led by Steve Cramer of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, David Hewitt of the Office to End Homelessness, and Beth Holger-Ambrose of The Link. 

Together, the group has designed creative solutions to prevent and end youth homelessness. The vision was outlined during a news conference on Wednesday.

The team see the business community as "key" in getting youth out of homelessness. So they're working with local organizations and businesses to provide employment opportunities. Several hospitality businesses have guaranteed dozens of jobs that will pay $15 an hour.

They're also looking for creative ways to find stable housing. In some cases, that'll include reuniting youth with their families. And a partner in the challenge, The Link, is building 47 housing units for homeless youths.

Homelessness in Minnesota

The Amherst H. Wilder Foundation in St. Paul has been studying and trying to count the number of homeless people in Minnesota since 1991. 

Every three years, they conduct a one-night statewide survey of homeless people in Minnesota to better understand the prevalence, causes, circumstances, and effects of homelessness.

Their last study done in 2015 determined that there were 9,312 homeless people in Minnesota – a nine percent decrease from the previous study in 2012.

Researchers have found that of all age groups, children and youth age 24 and younger are the most likely to be homeless in Minnesota. That includes children with their parents (35 percent of homeless Minnesotans) and minors and young adults on their own (16 percent.) Nearly half of all homeless youth are five years old or younger.

The top reasons Minnesotans are homeless, according to the study:

  • Not enough affordable housing.
  • Lack of employment.
  • Obstacles to maintaining housing, such as chronic health conditions, abuse, and violence.
  • Ripple effects caused by discrimination in housing and other systemic inequities.

The next survey is scheduled for Oct. 25, 2018.

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