Anoka nonprofit reaches $1M goal, plans to build youth homeless shelter

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An Anoka County nonprofit met its 45-day fundraising goal, and now has over $1 million to open a needed shelter for homeless youth.

In November, Hope 4 Youth fundraising chair John Sitarz said if the nonprofit didn't raise $1 million by Jan. 1 he would sleep outside until they raised those funds.

They reached their goal – and more. As of Jan. 7, they had raised an additional $77,000, ABC Newspapers reported.

The money will help the center, which opened in March 2013, expand its operations, including adding a place where homeless youth can stay overnight. Hope 4 Youth hasn't picked a location and there's still a lot more planning to go through, but it hopes to have something operating by next fall, the Pioneer Press says.

And that can't come soon enough.

The nonprofit has served more than 450 young people at its drop-in center since it opened, offering them a hot meal, as well as a place to do laundry, search online for jobs and store their belongings, but they have to leave by 7 p.m. and oftentimes they have no other place to go.

That's due in part to the lack of shelter space that's dedicated to homeless youth in the Twin Cities – especially in the suburbs. There are fewer than 700 beds designated for young people in the metro area, but there are about 2,000 homeless youth in need of a safe place to stay on any given night, KSTP says.

The push to setup more youth shelters in the suburbs has been growing in recent years as homeless populations continue to rise.

Brooklyn Avenues, a new 12-bed, short-term housing program for homeless youth, will open in Brooklyn Park next month. It's a first of its kind shelter outside the downtown area, the Pioneer Press notes.

There is also a plan to set up apartments for homeless and at-risk youth in Edina. Minnesota Housing didn't approve funding for the project in 2014, but it will try again this year, according to the project's website.

Hope 4 Youth hopes to add another 15 or 20 beds for homeless youth, KSTP notes.

Homeless youth on the rise

The number of homeless youth in Minnesota has jumped 63 percent since 2009, according to Wilder Research's latest 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 looked at four school districts in the state and found nearly 4,000 children identified as homeless in Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan, Duluth, St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Hope 4 Youth says there were 935 homeless youth in the Anoka-Hennepin School District in 2014.

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