An Overview of Issues and Barriers Contributing to the Rise of Youth Homelessness


Families of all sizes and types across the metro have lost their inner strength and are suffering. Research suggests family conflict contributes more to homelessness than economic motivators. Without the support of family, young men and women facing homelessness often have little other choice than to turn to survival decisions, many of which can lead to unhealthy, even dangerous or criminal, choices.

Every two years, the Amherst H. Wilder Research Center conducts a single-day census at shelters and other facilities that support homeless Minnesotans. Wilder’s most recent report finds that 10,214 people statewide identified as homeless—a population larger than Arden Hills.

Of that total, 46% were ages 21 and younger.

As alarming as these figures may be, however, Wilder states that this count under-represents reality, as the Twin Cities and surrounding communities lack formalized youth facilities, and those who remain unsheltered are difficult to accurately count and even more difficult to serve.

Only a few adult shelters allocate beds for youth, resulting in long waiting lists (often 2 – 3 weeks or more) and young people being turned away. Those that are lucky enough to get a bed in an adult facility are often fearful for their safety and vulnerable to theft and exploitation.

In the absence of formal shelter, homeless youth sleep outdoors, in vehicles or bus shelters and at the homes of friends. Worse yet, some of these young men and women fall victim to sex trafficking just to find a warm place to stay each night. (The FBI recently ranked Minnesota 13th in the nation for sex trafficking crimes.)

But keep in mind that homelessness is not just an urban concern. The number of homeless youth in Twin Cities’ suburbs is growing at an even greater rate than the metro core, and, in these communities, support resources are scarce or non-existent, leaving many young people unsupported and alone.

Without stable housing, youth cannot possibly achieve their fullest potential to thrive. Academic performance suffers without safe housing; job opportunities disappear without a permanent address or documentation; housing opportunities disappear without income. All the while, self-confidence erodes as the vicious barrier circle continues.