The Minneapolis hospitality/tourism industry has been a prominent supporter of the event in of the three years of the event. Meet Minneapolis board member and Hennepin County Commissioner Marion Greene represented the County as a major supporter of homelessness eradication efforts and as a sleep out participant. Brian Lamb, General Manager of Metro Transit has been a Meet Minneapolis board member for several years. Brian ensured that participants had reliable transportation to tour St. Barnabas, which provides stable housing for formerly homeless and at-risk youth, and St. Stephen’s Human Services. Gail Dorfman runs St. Stephen’s Human Services and was previously a Hennepin County Commission and Meet Minneapolis board member. Jeff Johnson, the executive director of the Minneapolis Convention Center (MCC) and a Meet Minneapolis board member paved the way for the group to gather at the MCC for registration and networking as well as using the outside space to sleep under the stars on the MCC plaza.
In addition to the “do the right thing” argument about why to focus attention on youth homelessness, there is a strong business case for the both the hospitality/travel industry and for the broader economic ecosystem. YouthLink commissioned Foldes Consulting to study the economic burden of youth homelessness. This research follows the eye opening statistics from the Wilder Foundation estimating that there are as many as 4,000 homeless youth in Minnesota on any given evening. The Foldes study examined the comprehensive costs of 1,451 young people ages 16 to 24 who were homeless or at risk of becoming homeless and who visited YouthLink in 2011.
The study concluded that the group would generate a lifetime excess cost to taxpayers of more than $360 million and an excess lifetime social burden of more than $889 million if these youth continued on the same life course and failed to achieve financial self-sufficiency. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that there is a growing focus on the youth homelessness issue and an enhanced motivation to address the issue. This increased focus from the business community in particular is a result of outreach activities such as the Night of Hope: Executive Sleep Out. Destination Transformation 2030, our tourism master plan, deals with many of the bricks and mortar needs to help us become the destination of choice. But if we leave behind a significant sector of our population, we are also leaving behind future workers to help us fill the burgeoning number of hospitality jobs we will need to fill. We will also be leaving behind potential consumers and customers of good and services. And doesn’t want new customers?
With the efforts of YouthLink and other organizations, hope for a bright future for homeless youth can become a reality.