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Ain Dah Yung Center helps Native American youth thrive

Posted on 11 February 2019 by Calvin

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
The Ain Dah Yung Center (ADYC), which means “our home” in the Ojibwe language, has provided a healing place for American Indian youth and families since 1983. Native Americans make up only 2% of Minnesota’s population, but 22% of Minnesota homeless youth are Native American.

ADYC was one of the first agencies in the state to deliver culturally relevant services for Native American youth through their emergency shelter, youth lodge, and cultural programs. They’ve been delivering those services in St. Paul so quietly and steadily that even neighbors may not know they are there.

The ADYC Emergency Shelter is located at 1089 Portland Ave. It provides culturally specific shelter to Native American youth who are homeless, runaway, in a family crisis, or involved with juvenile corrections. Services include short-term shelter, crisis intervention, information and referral, access to medical/dental care, counseling, and case management.

Photo right: Aid Dah Yung Center staff (left to right) Jasmine Grika, Angela Gauthier, and Desiree Clater. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Residential and clinical director Angela Gauthier said, “Historically, our emergency shelter filled a temporary need, based on the model of a 30-day stay. But we have seen a drastic increase in our length of stay over the last few years. We had one sibling group with four kids stay for nearly a year in 2018. There just wasn’t a foster home that could take them for a long time. We have ten beds for youth aged 5-17 and are usually full. We’re staffed 24-7.”

The Beverly A. Benjamin Youth Lodge is located at 1212 Raymond Ave. It’s a transitional living program available to Native American youth aged 16-21 who have no parental substitute, foster, or institutional home to which they can safely go. The Youth Lodge provides a stable, culturally supportive, and safe environment in which youth can address critical barriers to self-sufficiency—while strengthening their community and cultural connections. Youth must attend school or be looking for employment to be eligible. They work with staff to set educational, vocational and personal goals during their stay at the Youth Lodge. There are six beds available, and residents can stay rent-free for up to 18 months.

ADYC has broken ground on a third facility: a 42 bed permanent, supportive housing complex on University Ave. between Avon and Grotto streets.

Completion is expected in September of 2019. Gauthier explained, “As far as we know, there isn’t another model like this in the country for Native American youth ages 18-24. What we’ll offer to them as a place to call home, says a lot about what we’re telling them they’re worth. Residents here will have a lease on their efficiency apartments; they’ll pay rent (30% of their income); their unit will be their own. Residents can enter into a lease between the ages of 18-24, but they can stay as long as they like. We’ll incrementally accept residents over three months, until we’re at full capacity.

The Native American inspired design is beautiful, and there will be a cultural activities center and community gathering space on-site, as well as supportive services for residents.” Contact angela.gauthier@adycenter.org for more information.

The permanent, supportive housing complex is named Mino Oski Ain Dah Yung, meaning “Good New Home” in the Ojibwe language. Gauthier explained, “It will be easier for us to utilize volunteers in this new space. We’ll have a food and clothing shelf, plus a small store where residents can shop for clothing and personal care items using vouchers. Volunteers will be needed to keep the shelves stocked. We’ll also have a workforce center there, where community members can volunteer professional development skills such as resume writing and practicing for job interviews. There will be cooking spaces on each floor, where community members could teach cooking classes and basic meal preparation.”

ADYC is holding their 21st annual Cherish the Children Traditional Pow Wow at Central High School (275 Lexington Ave.) on Feb. 23-24. Cost is $5: free for children under seven, elders, and military veterans. Doors open at 11am, with grand entries of participants at 1pm both days. A community feast will be served on Saturday from 5-6pm, at no additional charge. Food concessions and crafts from American Indian vendors/artists will be available for purchase, and entry is good for both days.

Gauthier said, “There are so many positive things happening in the Native American community. To celebrate that, ADYC has the Ninijanisag Program—which means “Our Children” in Ojibwe. Through this program, youth ages 8-21 are grounded in Native culture through traditional drumming, dancing, and the youth leadership council. I hope that people are aware of the richness of life in Native American culture. One way to witness this is to come to an event like the upcoming pow wow.” Learn more about the work of ADYC in the community by visiting www.adycenter.org.

 

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