At Greater Twin Cities United Way, we know a place to call home is the foundation of a safe, stable life. For youth who are learning, growing, and building their future, this foundation is especially critical. However, on any given night more than 4,700 youth on their own in Minnesota experience homelessness.*
Homelessness shows up in our community in many different ways. When we think of homelessness, we often think of the person holding up a cardboard sign on the exit ramp, the figure sleeping in the alcove downtown, or those living in the tent encampment on the side of Highway 55. While these may be the most visible forms of homelessness, there’s a multitude of youth experiencing homelessness who aren’t as easy to spot.
What does youth homelessness look like? It might look like couch-hopping, staying with various friends or family members. It might look like a teen staying up all night riding the light rail. It might look like a youth sleeping in a church basement, or in their car in the school parking lot.
All young people have hopes, dreams, and aspirations, but those who are unsheltered face extremely difficult barriers to achieving their goals. Even simple things like having a place to do homework, getting to school on time, and having clean clothes to wear become daily challenges. Each youth is on a unique path, and as a community, we have a unique opportunity to support them by providing the resources needed to thrive.
How do we accomplish this? Because youth homelessness isn’t a one-size-fits-all experience, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. It can be daunting to look at the issue and wonder how we can make a difference when we can’t give someone a home or even a bed. As individuals, this work may seem impossible. But, as a community, our potential for change is limitless. By working together, we can end youth homelessness.
As the program officer who oversees Greater Twin Cities United Way’s work in preventing and ending homelessness, I know this is true. United Way has a unique vantage point as a thought leader on this issue, developing new and innovative partnerships, making connections between providers across our region, and funding tangible resources for people in need.
I also believe that together we can end youth homelessness because I have seen the passion and compassion in our community. When we share our time, our voice, and our dollars, the impossible becomes possible. But to build a world where no young person worries about where they’re going to sleep tonight, we need you.
- Share your time: Connection to community and to caring adults is critical to a youth’s success. There are a variety of volunteer opportunities available through Volunteer United- find one that fits!
- Share your voice: We believe our community will thrive when everyone has a place to call home. The Homes for All policy agenda is supported by United Way—call or write your elected officials to advocate for affordable housing.
- Share your dollars: Last year, Greater Twin Cities United Way raised over $688,000 to help 100 youth out of homelessness and into stability. Donations from people like you funded support services like case workers, outreach, and mental health resources for young people experiencing homelessness. What can we do together this year? Make a gift today.
Remember, every volunteer hour, letter to a policymaker, and kind donation adds up to something bigger than ourselves. Together, we can end youth homelessness.
*Source: Wilder Research, 2015
Sam Blackwell oversees United Way’s Housing Stability goal area, including the work of the Arise Project. Sam is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and has lived in the Twin Cities for a decade; he has a strong commitment to improving our community and to helping build pathways out of poverty in our community.