Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Cloud is working with young people experiencing homelessness to find housing and build successful futures. Their Youth House program provides transitional housing and emergency shelter to youth ages 16-24.
Housing for youth is a large need in Central Minnesota. Catholic Charities’ outreach worker met with 248 youth in St. Cloud last year. Youth House not only provides housing and emergency shelter, but staff also provide goal-oriented onsite programming. Youth are invited to create a customized independent living plan. Staff help youth identify goals and next steps toward stability, focusing on areas like education, employment, mental health and transportation.
“Our goal is to connect them back to their community. We work with them on employment and financial literacy, we help them re-enroll in high school, get their GED or apply for college. We also help them with social skills. We address the trauma living on the streets can cause and work with youth to build trusting relationships with our staff,” said Stacy Pederson, program manager for Youth House.
Building trust pays off. In 2015, 97 percent of youth completed their individual living plans. 78 percent of youth who came through the program had access to medical and mental health care upon exit. 73 percent reengaged in education, 87 percent found employment and 72 percent completed their personal transportation goal.
Last year, Youth House helped 33 young people build plans for success. While youth are able to stay in housing for as long as 24 months, the average stay is only six months before youth are ready and able to move on.
Financial support from Mardag Foundation allowed Youth House to build a stronger program. Catholic Charities employs the only youth street outreach worker in the St. Cloud area. Outreach workers are crucial first points of contact for youth on the streets, helping them transition quickly and safely into the program that’s right for them.
“Being a youth on the street can be very scary and many have to compromise their values to find a place to stay the night. The youth who walk through our doors are also incredibly resilient. Through this program, we’ve watched as youth come out of their shells, find employment, graduate high school, go to college and find apartments of their own. Community connections make all the difference,” said Pederson.