When Kristan was growing up in Saint Paul, things weren’t easy- her mom and dad separated after she was born, and her mom had been homeless, experienced violence, and lived with addiction. She was raised by her mom and her mom’s girlfriend, and then moved in with her dad at age 10. When she was 17, Kristan knew she was gay but was afraid to tell her father. When she did, their relationship became strained.
“He didn’t want me to be gay,” Kristan said. “There was a lot of arguing and door slamming- I started feeling like it wasn’t a safe space for me.”
She dropped out of high school, left home, and began couch-hopping with friends. Kristan later moved in with a partner and engaged in “survival relationships,” characterized by emotional and physical safety, security, and necessity.
“Homelessness happens when a young person comes out,” Kristan said. “But a homeless youth is probably not going to stand on the side of the road with a sign. They’re going to look like your son, daughter, niece or nephew; they’re going to look like the teenager on the bus next to you. They may have an iPhone but they don’t have a place to sleep at night.”
Kristan sought services at one of Greater Twin Cities United Way’s housing providers that help homeless youth in crisis through counseling and programs that empower them to overcome barriers. Through counseling and support, she dealt with her trauma and went to college to study social work, where there was stable housing.
Kristan graduated and went on to become an outreach manager for The Bridge for Youth, another Greater Twin Cities United Way funded partner in the housing space. Today, she is an adoption resource worker for Hennepin County Public Health as well as an active member of Greater Twin Cities United Way’s Arise Project, a giving community dedicated to supporting the lives of LGBTQ homeless youth.
“It really came full circle,” Kristan said. “United Way’s mission and focus on funding local nonprofits saves lives, including mine. First, through the help I received at a United Way partner as a teenager, then at The Bridge for Youth- one of the first agencies to receive dollars from Arise Project- which funded my position. Because of both of those things, I’ve been able to use my own personal experiences to meet a young person where they’re at, and hopefully make a difference in their life.”
In 2010, Kristan bought a house in Northeast Minneapolis where she lives today with her partner.
“Buying a house was the most monumental thing that has happened in my life,” Kristan said. “When that happened, I was like, “I’ve made it! It was a big deal.” Not having places that felt safe as a youth was very scary for me, and today I am so grateful to have a stable home and a healthy life.”
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