For those of us with children and youth in our lives, it seems unimaginable that a 16- to 24-year-old would not have adequate shelter. In fact, more than 6,000 youth may be without shelter on any given night in our state. There are many reasons for this, including a parent with other younger children simply not having the resources to care for the older sibling anymore. It could also be an abusive situation or some other discord in the home. Youth homelessness is an issue we should all take notice of, regardless of the reason.
An organization leading the charge to support these young people is YouthLink. Its mission is to “support and empower young people on their journey to self-reliance.” YouthLink serves nearly 2,000 youth annually with a fairly even split between young women and young men. The wraparound services provided by YouthLink include basic needs like a hot shower or a warm meal, assistance with employment or educational goals, accessing mental and physical health resources, or finding supportive housing. Steve Cramer, president & CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council/DID, has been the chair of the YouthLink board for several years. This area of service blends perfectly with his staunch advocacy of the success of our downtown.
Supporting these youth can change the trajectory of their lives – possibly diverting them from interactions with the criminal justice system or social services networks. There is empirical data, commissioned by YouthLink, that estimates the staggering lifetime cost to society of not helping these young adults. While the size of the challenge may seem overwhelming, it is impactful if we reach only one youth.
And this work is beyond being “the right thing to do.” Many of these individuals are resourceful, creative, eager, and willing to walk through that open door of opportunity. That is particularly vital for the growth of our hospitality and tourism industry. Our workforce shortages will likely continue into the foreseeable future. Supporting these young adults and exposing them to an industry with a future seems to be a no-brainer. Organizations such as the Greater Minneapolis Hotel Association, Hospitality Minnesota and the Hennepin County Workforce Leadership Council continue to push for support for programs to recruit, train and retain the professionals in our industry, as we need to keep the promises we make to our visitors.
Having had the opportunity to serve on the YouthLink board for several years, I can attest to the impact of the work that this organization does. I am sure that YouthLink executive director Dr. Heather Huseby would appreciate your support of the organization she has led for more than a decade. She would also encourage and appreciate any support you choose to provide toward efforts to create a pathway for our community’s future leaders.
Todd Klingel, the former CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber, was active in many community-led efforts before passing away in 2016. Klingel initiated the first of four “Night of Hope Executive Sleep Outs.” I had an opportunity to be a part of that exciting time where leaders in our community came together for one night to personally experience the homelessness that so many in our community experience frequently.
I am using the very generous platform I have been given – as this year’s recipient of the award named in Todd’s honor – to make our stakeholders aware of one way to help. That is the YouthLink Breakfast 2021: Stand Up for Youth event on Tuesday, Sept. 14. Funds raised will help further YouthLink’s mission. To learn more about YouthLink, please visit www.youthlinkmn.org. Let’s work together to create a hopeful future for some of our most challenged youth.