Guest Opinion: Together, we help change lives

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On Oct. 26, the Wilder Foundation held a statewide outreach to homeless youth who will be released in the coming weeks. We expect their numbers to remain high.

The latest estimate is that 13,300 Minnesota youth experienced homelessness on their own in a given year, including 5,800 teenagers 17 and younger.

They are boring numbers. Where do young people go when they can’t go home? They often couchide with friends until they’re welcome, live in their cars, find quiet spaces in heated buildings and tent camp for shelter. The added hurdle of a tight housing market makes it more difficult for these young people to find housing.

At Minnesota Lutheran Social Services – a statewide organization providing youth off-street placement, emergency shelter, transitional housing, emotional support, life planning, independent living skills and assistance with needs – we are grateful to receive additional funding from the Minnesota Legislature this year. Expanding care and housing support for youth.

In central Minnesota, including Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties, LSS served nearly 200 youth last year. The recent funding will allow us to support up to 250 young people per year with the continuation of our services.

At LSS, youth find safety, a caring adult to accompany them, and support in achieving their hopes and dreams for personal, school, and career success. But we don’t do it alone.

Local congregations, neighbors, civic groups, and businesses support the youth we serve in many ways by providing handmade blankets and gift cards, youth meetings, household items, and daily necessities. If you would like to help this holiday season, here are our current needs:

  • New underwear (all sizes), blankets, scarves, winter hats and earmuffs, gloves and other cold weather gear
  • Toiletries like travel size shampoo, conditioner, razor, body wash, deodorant
  • Towels and washcloths
  • Food/Grocery/Gas Gift Card Donations and Cash Contributions
  • A food basket or treat for the youngsters during the holidays or anytime
  • Cleaning supplies for young people when they move into their own apartment
  • Shelf food, such as canned goods, jerky, cereal, rice and pasta

During November, National Runaway and Homeless Youth Month, think about how you can make a difference. Please call 888-828-4383 or send an email

brainerdouth@lssmn.org

If you would like to drop off or donate supplies. Thank you for joining us in ensuring stability and care for young people who are working hard to achieve independence and self-reliance. Your support is important. Together, we help change lives.

Maria Esman is a senior program manager for Lutheran Social Services in Brainerd, Minnesota.





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