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New website, app helps homeless youth find available beds

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Homeless youth in the Twin Cities can now check shelters for available beds or food resources using a computer or smartphone.

The website YSNMN.org is a collaboration between 12 nonprofit organizations (the Youth Services Network) that support homeless youth in the area, according to an Avenues for Homeless Youth press release.

On the home page there are seven options, such as food, shelter, and basic needs (see the screenshot at right).

Click one, and it tells you the location of a shelter, hours, how to bus there, what services they offer, and more. If you're searching for a place to sleep, the site will tell you how many beds are available at a location.

Youths can also sign up to get a text or email notification when a bed becomes available.

The advantage, according to the groups: People in need don't need to call shelters, over and over, every day, searching for a place to stay.

“Quick access to support is everything for homeless youth,” Deborah Loon, executive director at Avenues for Homeless Youth, said in the news release.

The site and app (available for free on Apple and Android devices under the name "YSNMN") launched in mid-June, according to a news release from The Bridge for Youth. It's connected to all the youth-specific shelters in the Twin cities, and was funded by a grant from Target. (They're also seeking more funding for continued technical support.)

KSTP did a story about the service Thursday, speaking with a former homeless man and also talking about the problems facing homeless youth.

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There's also a valuable data collection aspect. The program will keep track of how many people are searching for beds and aren't able to get one, the news release says, helping the organizations get a better idea of how many homeless youths are actually out there.

Homeless youth on the rise

The number of homeless youth in Minnesota has jumped 63 percent since 2009, according to Wilder Research data, and on any given night there are 4,000 youth and young adults who are homeless and unaccompanied by an adult, Avenues for Homeless Youth says.

The Minnesota Housing Partnership's most recent 2x4 report (released earlier this week) asked four school districts – Duluth, Minneapolis, Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan, and St. Paul – for their tally of students identified as homeless. The total for 2014-15 was 8,085.

That’s down from last year’s high of 8,333, but still more than any of the five years prior.

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