BEMIDJI, Minnesota -- November is National Homeless Children and Youth Awareness Month.
Compared with other Midwestern states, Minnesota has some of the highest numbers for those 25 and younger. In the northwestern region, efforts are taking shape to prevent teens and young adults from a lifetime of housing instability.
One statewide study showed children and unaccompanied youths age 24 and younger make up nearly half of those experiencing homelessness.
Cory Boushee, community impact program officer for the Northwest Minnesota Foundation, which works with stakeholders in a 12-county region to address the issue, said roughly a quarter of those served by response programs are in the youth demographic, underscoring the need for more prevention work.
"All of that trauma leads to increases of adult homelessness," Boushee observed. "So, if we can cut down this number of 25% of the people we're serving having to be in that age group, we're really gonna be better off in the long run."
He pointed out one of their latest efforts to reduce the numbers is a new web app called My Path. It connects at-risk youth with a variety of resources, including housing, to help them gain more stability in their life. Project leaders hope it allows more teens and young adults to feel a sense of anonymity in reaching out, as opposed to walking into help centers and asking in person.
Research at the national level shows a variety of factors driving youth homelessness, including aging out of foster care and encounters with the juvenile justice system.
Boushee noted when you combine that with a lack of a financial history, it is hard to get approved for housing.
"Landlords just won't look at 'em," Boushee explained. "So now they can't get into anywhere and that just keeps that cycle repeating of having to find a friend's house to sleep on and then another friend's house to sleep on."
He said without a permanent address, teens and young adults then encounter problems in landing a steady job, adding to their barriers in finding stability. Researchers have said more data collection is important to guide programs, and Boushee said this fall, the coalition in his region launched a separate effort to measure the effectiveness of all their responses.
Source: Minnesota News Connection