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Partnership Program Employs Homeless Youth

YouthLinkYouthLink, the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District (MDID) and Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) have teamed up to launch the Youth Outreach Program, a new pilot initiative aimed at connecting the city’s homeless youth with the resources they need to find independence.

At the core of the program are four young employees who have experienced or are currently experiencing homelessness. The group was interviewed and hired by YouthLink—a local nonprofit dedicated to helping homeless youth find independence by providing basic needs as well as educational, employment and housing assistance—as the inaugural Youth Outreach Program to help with street outreach. Each will canvas the city streets 10 hours a week in search of others who are experiencing homelessness, particularly young people, and help direct them to YouthLink and other vital resources in the community. Organizers hope they will be able to connect more people with the help they need by providing liaisons that are more approachable and able to better understand, relate to and identify the challenges and needs of the homeless community.

“YouthLink’s Youth Outreach team are incredible new assets for downtown,” said Steve Cramer, President & CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council and MDID. “Their presence sends a positive message about the role young people can play as part of the downtown community. They will also help promote a culture of safety among their peers, and help promote understanding of the reality and challenge of youth homelessness; a challenge the Downtown Council’s Intersections: Downtown 2025 Plan commits the business community to tackle.”

The Youth Outreach Program was made possible by a $100,000 grant from the Downtown Improvement District. It will be run by YouthLink. In addition to their hourly pay, each of the four employees will also receive a scholarship from MCTC that will cover the cost of a class.

“The Downtown Improvement District and YouthLink understand a college degree and a career deliver youth from homelessness. Their partnership with MCTC is about giving youth a path out of hopelessness,” said Mike Christenson, MCTC associate vice president of strategic partnerships. “This partnership is the first step to a great career, and MCTC is happy to help students on their path to success.”

“Having this opportunity to partner with the downtown Minneapolis community is incredible. To have youth earning and learning while they help their peers connect to services is a great benefit for our community,” said YouthLink executive director Dr. Heather Huseby.

The Youth Outreach Program pilot program launched in early July and will be funded through the end of 2016.