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Each year, more than 600 homeless and at-risk youth in Duluth visit Life House for walk-in access to food, shelter, job training, counseling and other services. With a grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Life House will now be able to reach more young Minnesotans. The organization was recently awarded a $254,000 two-year grant to expand its efforts as part of a $4.2 million investment in the Homeless Youth Act from Gov. Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature.
“No young people in Minnesota should have to worry about where they will sleep,” said Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson, who toured and met youth served by Life House Monday, Feb. 24. “This funding will not only get more young people off the street and into safe housing, but will also give them the support they need to build the future they want for themselves. Organizations like Life House play a critical role in creating a healthy future for youth and all of Minnesota.”
Minnesota’s homeless population has grown by 6 percent since 2009, according to the 2012 Wilder Research study, Homelessness in Minnesota (PDF). On the night of the statewide count in October 2012, homeless Minnesotans numbered 10,214. Nearly half were youth age 21 and younger. More than 1,000 were youth on their own. With the additional resources, the state will be better able to fund a full continuum of programming, ranging from prevention to permanent housing, to serve young Minnesotans.
Located in downtown Duluth, Life House’s drop-in center provides walk-in access to services for youth ages 14-21, including basic needs like food and shelter, help finding and keeping safe stable housing, crisis intervention, job training and placement, tutoring, mental health counseling, and life skills training. The Homeless Youth Act grant allows Life House to add a staff position focused on improving coordination of on-site programs to help youth achieve safety, stability and long-term self-sufficiency. With the grant funding, Life House will also increase the number of beds in its scattered-site youth transitional living program.
“At Life House, we strive to connect homeless youth with basic needs and services to meet long-term stabilization goals,” said Life House Executive Director Maude Dornfeld. “We believe that the safe and trusting space created in our youth drop-in center enables homeless youth to reach out and begin the healing process. Equipped with the tools of self-knowledge and support, our young people can become healthy adults.”
The $4.2 million in funding approved last session is the largest since the Homeless Youth Act was adopted. Thirty organizations across the state received two-year grants, including two other northeastern Minnesota organizations: Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota for emergency shelter serving youth in Duluth; and Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency for street outreach, drop-in center and transitional housing serving youth in Itasca, Koochiching and St. Louis counties.
Life House also recently received a $200,000 two-year grant to provide services for youth victims of sex trafficking as part of $1 million in state funding for the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Youth law. For more information on all grantees, see a news release on the Homeless Youth Act grants and a news release on the Safe Harbor grants.