Categorized | NEWS

Helping homeless teens in St. Paul

Posted on 10 December 2015 by Calvin

Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative builds strong community partnerships

Article and photos by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
St. Paul, like every other major city, has a problem with teen and young adult homelessness. According to recent Amherst H. Wilder Foundation research, 4,000 young Minnesotans are homeless across the state on any given night. That number is thought to be conservative, as many young people are living outside the shelter system, couch surfing, for example, due to the shortage of housing and services for homeless youth.

According to Paris Yarbrough, Homeless Liaison with High School for Recording Arts near Lexington and University avenues, ”Homeless and highly mobile youth are a unique population who don’t fit the ‘typical’ profile. You won’t find them panhandling or sleeping outside. They’re hard to see, almost invisible. But 30-40% of our students meet the definition of chronic homelessness, which is that they’ve experienced at least one year of continuous homelessness or four episodes of any length within the past three years.”

Homelessness 01PHOTO RIGHT: Paris Yarbrough, Homeless Liaison with High School for Recording Arts, welcomes donations for homeless and highly mobile students. The school is located near Lexington and University avenues, and 30-40% of its students are without a permanent home at any given time. To make a donation of nonperishable food items or warm clothing, contact her at pyargrough@mnic.org.

“There are a lot of kids in this city, not just Minneapolis, who need help,” Yarbrough continued. “St. Paul has had limited housing options for homeless and highly mobile youth in the past, but that’s going to change soon.”

A short bus ride west on University Ave. from the High School for Recording Arts is a development project under construction called Prior Crossing, located at the intersection of Prior and University avenues. When completed next summer, Prior Crossing will offer 44 studio apartments to homeless youth and young adults in Ramsey County. It won’t be a homeless shelter, and it won’t be transitional housing, which is usually time-limited. It will be a place where homeless youth (ages 18-21 at move-in time) can live indefinitely—a place they can call home.

Youth may be homeless for many reasons such as parent incarceration, falling through the cracks in the county foster care system, choosing to leave home because of unsafe conditions, addiction, tough economics or unchecked mental health issues—their own or their parents’.

The driving force behind Prior Crossing is Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative, located just a mile or so west of Prior Crossing at 2610 University Ave.

Beacon is engaged with more than 70 congregations, all committed to ending homelessness in the Twin Cities. They employ a large staff, including two full-time congregational organizers who work within faith communities transforming faith into action. Prior Crossing was jump-started by one such congregation: House of Hope Presbyterian Church in the Summit-University neighborhood, who gave $500,000 to get the Prior Crossing project rolling.

The Met Council since contributed $925,000, the City of St. Paul more than $1,000,000, and the State of Minnesota more than $8,000,000 for Prior Crossing. Various philanthropic gifts from foundations and individuals all testify to this community’s desire to address the problem of homeless youth living on the streets of St. Paul.

Beacon shines brightly for many reasons. According to staffer Kris Berggren, Beacon “works with congregations and funders across the metro area to build a strong base of support. We construct high-quality housing that lasts, and we offer supportive services that are highly effective.”

At Prior Crossing, Beacon’s partner in providing supportive services will be the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation. “The Wilder staff is experienced at working with issues homeless youth face,” Berggren explained, “starting with the trauma of living on their own at such a young age. In addition to emotional support, tenants can choose to receive guidance around education, health care, employment, money management and other essential life skills. While there’ll be no requirement to participate in on-site services, the goal of Prior Crossing will be to build a supportive community of tenants, peers and staff. We want our young people to thrive, not just survive.”

Homelessness 02PHOTO LEFT: Kris Berggren of Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative said, “Youth experiencing homelessness ride buses and trains a lot. They ride for warmth, and sometimes for shelter, when nothing else is available overnight.”

If it’s true that it takes a village to raise a child, it’s going to take the whole city to address youth homelessness in St. Paul. The organizations spotlighted here are all a short distance apart: an easy drive, bus or train ride, even an enterprising walk from one to the other—yet in many ways, they are worlds apart.

The partnership that Beacon has built in developing Prior Crossing will do much to bridge the gap. It’s time to give these young people, whom Homeless Liaison Paris Yarbrough described as “hard to see,” something they can see: safe, affordable housing in a community that cares.

St. Paul Ballet


Chanhassen Dinner Theater

Discovery Club

U of M Brain Study

Nilles-Filler Combo Online ad