Lutherans in Minnesota

LSS joins coalition in support of solutions to youth homelessness

On any given night in Minnesota, more than 2,500 young people are homeless. Forty percent of these youth live in Greater Minnesota. Almost half have been physically or sexually abused; more than half have been locked out of their home.

When young people no longer have access to a home, they shelter in open garages, under bridges, in parks, or on the couches of friends or acquientances. This is not a safe way to grow up.

A statewide coalition of community and faith-based organizations and a bipartisan group of legislators have come together to work for passage of the Homeless Youth Act. The legislation would provide $8 million in state funding to help end youth homelessness. Program priorities are prevention and early intervention.

The lead sponsors of the bill are Rep. Laurie Halverson (DFL-Eagan) and Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis). They are joined by a broad bipartisan group of co-sponsors in both houses of the legislature.

Jodi Harpstead, CEO of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, testified before the House of Representatives Early Childhood and Youth Development Policy Committee and spoke to supporters at a Capitol news conference. Harpstead said the Homeless Youth Act is important because it focuses on intervention and prevention, not just crisis management.

“Our ultimate goal is to end youth homelessness by stopping it from getting a stronger foothold in Minnesota,” she said.

Solutions designed specifically for young people who are homeless are important. “The lives of young homeless people are more complex than people realize,” said Harpstead. “Solutions for young people aren’t the same as those for older Minnesotans who are homeless.”

Among the solutions that could be funded by the legislation are prevention services, including counseling; outreach services to connect with young people living on the streets and to get them into housing, counseling, and support programs; and supportive housing, giving young people security and support as they begin their new lives.

Since the Homeless Youth Act is included in Gov. Mark Dayton’s budget at $5 million and with bi-partisan consensus in the legislature, it is likely that this bill will pass in 2013.

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