Where did you sleep that night? Did you sleep in a bed, in your house? Did you sleep in a hotel while on vacation? Did you sleep on the street wondering if you were going to make it through the night?
On Jan. 26, 2018, more than 125 young people in our community were in homelessness. Every night many young people in our community are sleeping outside, in cars or couch-hopping with friends.
You may be thinking – how do these young people become homeless? Don’t they have families? Why don’t they just get jobs? There can’t possibly be that many homeless young people in St. Cloud. This isn’t even a real issue! How does this even affect me anyway?
I’m here to tell you, it’s not that simple. Youth homelessness is a real issue in our community and it does affect you. These are young people, fighting to be seen. Fighting to survive. Fighting to be someone. Once you become aware of the issue, it is hard not to notice it every day on the streets of St. Cloud and other local communities.
The main cause of youth homelessness is physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse from parents or guardians. More than 50 percent of these youths have witnessed abuse in their home and/or have lived with a substance abuser in their household. Many have been physically or sexually abused and severely neglected.
Another 50 percent have a parent or guardian struggling with a mental illness or have had a parent serve time in prison. One in five of these young people identify as LGBTQ and have had to leave their homes due to conflicts over their identity.
Pathways 4 Youth is an opportunity center serving homeless youth in our community ages 16-23. This age range is a critical stage in a young adult’s life. During this time, you’re trying to figure out who you are, where you belong, how you fit in, what you believe in and who you want to be in the future.
Pathways’ goal is to provide youth with a space where they feel safe, valued, and supported while reaching their full potential. The process begins with meeting their basic needs (clothing, food, showers, laundry, etc.) and leads to giving them the tools to thrive (case managers, computer access, job skills, etc.).
On May 16, Pathways opened to the youth in our community for the first time. Our first visitor was a young man by the name of Charlie. He used the food pantry, the clothing closet, took a hot shower, did his laundry, met with our on-site case manager, and ate a hot meal for supper donated by Chipotle.
Charlie would not have had such a positive experience if it were not for people in our community like you. Community members have come together during the past year, and continue donating their time and money to help the youth.
Each day we are open, we have volunteer ‘mentors’ who give their time to assisting youth through our food and hygiene products pantry, clothing closet, finding other community resources and answer questions.
Our mentors are open-minded, non-judgmental and supportive. They give our youth tough love when they need it as we provide a hand up not a hand out. For many of the youth, we are like the family that they never had.
That’s where you come in! We are always seeking people to volunteer as mentors for our youth. If assisting people like Charlie sounds like something you would like to learn more about, please come to an orientation meeting at our site. You can sign up at: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/60b0a4aa8af2dabfc1-look If you would like to take a tour of our facility, please contact either Callie Olson (program manager) email@example.com or Katlyn Walz (volunteer coordinator) firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
We look forward to continuing our efforts to end youth homelessness in Central Minnesota. We couldn’t do it without you! Pathways is open from 2-7 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.