United we can end youth homelessness

Categories: Staff Commentary, Housing

We all know that young adulthood is a critical time in every person’s life. It’s a time when people go off to college, move out on their own, start their first job—it’s a time to learn about yourself, to connect with your community, and to build towards your future.

In this age of transition, we all know stability is key. As youth learn and grow, pursue their aspirations and make mistakes, they need stability to fall back on, caring friends and adults to trust and confide in, and the support and care of their community. The transition from childhood to adulthood can be challenging without these things, and episodes of homelessness for youth and young adults are incredibly disruptive—so much so, in fact, that folks in our community who experience homelessness as youth or children are much more likely to experience it as an adult.

At Greater Twin Cities United Way, we envision a community where all youth have the resources and opportunity to thrive, including a safe and stable home and a community that supports them. The homelessness crisis in our community is real, but it is solvable.

United we can end youth homelessness.

This statement, frankly, can seem impossible. After all, 4,700 youth are homeless on any given night in Minnesota, 2,500 in the greater Twin Cities. Most of these youth are youth of color, and an estimated 40% of them identify as LGBTQ. And that’s just the number who experience homelessness on any given night; in reality, throughout the year, many more youth will go without a safe place to stay.

But ending youth homelessness isn’t impossible—it’s realistic. When Minnesota declared it would end veteran homelessness, there was a healthy amount of skepticism. But through coordinated hard work, almost half of Minnesota’s counties have effectively ended homelessness for veterans, and the others are well on their way.

By working together, it can happen for youth.

Does that mean a youth will never experience a housing crisis? Of course not. There will always be things that arise in a youth’s life—an unexpected car repair, a bad break-up, a missed rent payment—but together we can create a system that makes that housing crisis brief, rare, and a one-time thing. A youth that finds themselves without a place to call home shouldn’t have to wait for housing, and we can all come together to make sure they don’t have to.

So what do we need?

  • Your Dollars: United Way funds 15 different youth housing providers, offering outreach, shelter, and longer term housing. Our agencies depend on this funding for things they couldn’t otherwise afford, like mental health resources, case management, grocery cards, and kitchen utensils – things that are critical but can be hard to pay for without United Way’s flexible funds and partnership. You can support people in need right here in the Twin Cities through United Way’s Community Impact Fund. Donate Now.
  • Your Time: Connection to community and to caring adults is critical to a youth’s success. There are endless opportunities to engage with United Way and our partners, from one-time events to longer-term commitments like becoming a host home for a youth experiencing homelessness. Find a volunteer opportunity through Volunteer United.
  • Your Voice: Homelessness is often an ignored issue—it can be easier to pretend it’s not happening because it feels so impossible to solve. But youth and advocates in our community have been pushing for change since the crisis began. Speak with your city council members, county commissioners, state and federal representatives—the more voices that can join us in this important work, the better. Check out the Homes for All policy agenda, which United Way endorses, for an example of what policy positions can help.

It may seem like a daunting task, but we really can end youth homelessness. But we can only do it together.

Join us.


Sam BlackwellCommunity Impact Program Manager 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.

Connect with Sam on LinkedIn or Twitter @samblackwell

teen walking on concrete bridge

One thought on “United we can end youth homelessness

  1. Please have Sam connect with me so that I can see/share how (specifically,
    Presbyterian) churches are collaborating to address the needs of
    homeless youth. THANKS!

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