To the Editor:
Did you know there are youth in the Fairmont area who are homeless and do not have a place to live? Being a youth and balancing the multiple demands of homework, jobs, transportation, and having food are a lot for many students. Some do not know where they will be able to sleep each night on top of all of that.
Youth homelessness in Minnesota is a real problem, even in the Fairmont area. I am currently a graduate student in the Social Work Department at Minnesota State-Mankato. As part of our policy class, my group looked into youth homelessness and what is being done about it in Region 9, which includes Fairmont.
We think this is a significant topic for the people of Minnesota to be aware of and we want to build support for the resources which support our youth.
Research by the Wilder Foundation tells us that many youth become homeless after being discharged from the "system," as either a foster child or a client of the juvenile justice system. These youth too often do not have family members to provide guidance or support like the rest of their peers.
Currently, the Legislature is in the process of deciding what to do with a budget surplus. One area it could increase support for is funding for the Homeless Youth Act. It provides funding for programs that serve youth who are homeless with crisis intervention services, emergency shelter services and transitional living programs, among others.
In Mankato, there is a program called the Reach, which provides these very supports to youth. Some services the Reach offers include a place to shower; a food pantry; toiletries; independent living skills classes for things such as cooking, budgeting and renting apartments; and computers for homework, applying for jobs and writing a resume. For youth who do not have family to support them, these services are crucial to help them become independent and self-sufficient.
Many of us won't have to give much thought to where we will sleep tonight, but if we do I'm sure the options won't include sleeping under a bridge overpass, in a laundry or storage room of an apartment building, abandoned buildings around town, on a college campus or in parking garage stairwells. All of which are places youth have identified in the last year in Region 9.
Let's make sure everyone knows about the resources available and support programs like the Reach with volunteer hours, supply drives or by emailing your hometown legislators and asking them to support the Homeless Youth Act. Because everyone deserves a safe place to sleep.
You can find the Reach on Facebook, on South Front Street in Mankato, or at (507) 720-0331.
You can access your legislator's information at www.leg.state.mn.org and click on "who represents me" toward the bottom of the page.