How can we go help the 46 percent of the homeless people in the state of Minnesota who are age 21 and younger?

On any given night in Minnesota, 4,000 youth are homeless.

I can’t even fathom that number.

My kids, who are 10 and 12 years old, are bundling up in as many blankets as they want, and these kids don’t have any shelter.

I think about Donna* and her two children, who are 11 and 14.

She became homeless over the summer after a dispute with her landlord. A school staffer connected her to a YMCA Youth Intervention Services staffer. Donna and her kids were placed in a housing program and provided food, clothes and supplies for the school year. 

On November 1, Donna moved into an apartment, and she’s started a new job. 

We’re honored that we could help Donna, but we’re humbled that there are so many other children and families in need. 

I think about all the kids in our community who don’t have even the most basic things: a roof over their head, a pillow under their head, a blanket and regular meals. 

That shakes me up. That really shakes me up. 

One of the things I think about in the Twin Cities, some of these problems are highly concentrated, geographically. You can drive to and from work and not see homelessness and almost have blinders on. 

It’s easy to live here and not know it exists.

Until I joined the YMCA as a team member, did I understand that our community is challenged with violence and homelessness? 

I was aware, but it wasn’t real until I started driving to our office in Minneapolis and spending time with our community leaders and YMCA staffers. 

I’m learning from Stacy Sweeney, our homelessness prevention program director. She’s so inspiring to me. 

She was homeless with a child. 

I ask myself, “Would I have been able to be that resilient and be able to raise my young child and find my way? Could I do what she did?” 

But Stacy is a part of the inspiration and solution. She’s giving back and helping others, and she’s right there on the ground. Young people can look at her not as someone who’s preaching from up high but someone who understands their experience. 

Look at the cycle she was able to break. 

That’s mission work. That’s real value. 

Our children deserve better. 

I’m concerned for their safety, character development, academic development - and that they are afforded any and every opportunity. With the right caring adults and with the right opportunities, any of these kids we’re serving can find their way. 

*Name change to protect family’s identity