by Dennis Dalman
Starting this early April, some homeless youth in the area will have a safe, warm home, thanks to the new transitional youth-house project of Catholic Charities of St. Cloud.
The home was created in an old, refurbished home right by St. Cloud State University, at 374 4th Ave. S. in a historic neighborhood right across from the First Presbyterian Church. Any homeless children in any city of the greater St. Cloud area will be potential candidates for the homeless-project house.
Stacy Pederson of Sartell is program manger for the Catholic Charities youth-house project.
“We’ve been talking about this need for a long time,” she said. “We did a lot of brainstorming with others. We gathered numbers and kept ourselves informed.”
A major share of the funding for the house project comes from the Minnesota Department of Human Services, with some from the United Way and the West Central Initiative Foundation, as well as from many individual donors.
To begin with, the house will be able to accommodate up to seven youth ages 18-21. Later, that number will be expanded to up to 13, each person with his or her own room. Catholic Charities also hopes to have some short-term emergency beds available.
Homeless youth will be able to live in that house for up to 24 months. The house is the core of a transitional program that will help the homeless youth daily in a number of ways. They will have help with schooling, learn life-sufficiency skills, assistance in finding jobs and a variety of support programs that will encourage positive social activities. Those who may be having problems with drug and/or alcohol must keep working toward sobriety, including treatment sessions, or they will not be allowed to stay there.
There will be a trained adult staff at the house on a 24-hour basis, seven days a week.
The house, Pederson said, is an ideal location because it is close to bus service, the public library and walking distance to many places where homeless youth can connect with services they may need.
Who are they?
Prospective tenants for the house will be carefully screened. Catholic Charities homeless-outreach worker Jennifer Walker will make contacts with homeless youth. She frequently meets such young people at places where they “hang out,” such as the St. Cloud Public Library, Place of Hope, the Lake George and downtown area and the Salvation Army. After she meets such young people, she finds ways to help them. Now, thanks to the homeless-youth house, she will be able to find qualified candidates a safe home base.
Catholic Charities has always been concerned with homelessness and homeless youth, Pederson noted. In some cases, they were able to be placed temporarily in apartment units, and in other cases they were offered other kinds of assistance. Last year, Catholic Charities helped 75 homeless young people, 16 of them under the age of 16. Some of them even had children of their own, making their needs especially acute.
Pederson described the range of problems that cause young people to become homeless. Most she said, are estranged from their parents because of a variety of issues and, thus, those bonds have been damaged, sometimes seemingly beyond repair. Almost all homeless youth simply do not have any money or resources to find a home base. Many of them have had unhealthy relationships and broken friendships, leaving them no place to stay. Because of all those factors, and more, homeless youth are particularly vulnerable, Pederson noted.
Recently, Sartell resident and Catholic Charities Board member Sarah Jane Nicoll hosted a “shower” get-together at the homeless-youth house. She was helped by another Sartell resident and friend, Lisa Mauer.
People who attended the shower brought a variety of gifts that will be needed at the home, such as linens, kitchen ware, laundry soap and other miscellaneous household items.
Such ongoing contributions will be important to the success of the home, Pederson said.
Here are some of the other ways area residents can help:
Anyone who is adept at fix-up projects in older homes and is willing to volunteer their time and skills would be appreciated. For example, eventually the furnace or water heater might need to be fixed or replaced. There are also still some areas of the home that need some fix-up tweaking. Contributions to help pay for fix-up projects are also needed.
Volunteers willing to come to the house to help lead activities are also needed, such as people this spring and summer to teach basic gardening skills, helping youth with resumes and work applications, assisting with and teaching cooking and hosting occasional game nights (i.e. Trivial Pursuit and other board games).
Anyone who wants to contribute time, money or skills – as in the list above – should call Catholic Charities Volunteer Coordinator Kathleen Mulligan. Her number is 320-229-4590.
Another way to help is to purchase household items online. There is a wish list at Target just for the homeless-project house. Go to www.target.com, then go to Registries and pull down that menu. Then under “Target wedding registries,” click on “Find.” In the two blank boxes, first type in “Catholic Charities” where it says “First Name.” Then in the second box, where it says “Last Name,” type in “shy.” Then click “Find” and the registry list will pop up.
To learn more about Catholic Charities Supportive Housing for Youth (SHY) go online to www.ccstcloud.org/shy. People can contribute on that site, as well.