Photo courtesy of Bigstock/ jeffbanke
The mission of Avenues for Youth is simple: to partner with youth experiencing homelessness to achieve their dreams.
For over 25 years, Avenues for Youth has been supporting youths experiencing homelessness in Minnesota. Whether a young person needs a place to stay for just one night, or a year and a half, Avenues empowers youth to find their path out of homelessness. Since inception, Avenues has supported thousands of youth experiencing homelessness. Avenues has significantly expanded in the past five years to support more youth and deepen its supportive services to ensure its impact on youth and the community is long-lasting and transformative. Today, Avenues supports more than 300 homeless youth annually.
Avenues provides housing and support to youth experiencing homelessness through a number of programs:
- Minneapolis Avenues: a shelter and transitional living program in North Minneapolis, supports 21 youths at a time for up to 18 months.
- Brooklyn Avenues: a shelter and transitional living program in Brooklyn Park, supports 12 youths at a time.
- Young Families: Our Future provides youth-led families who are experiencing homelessness with apartments, rent subsidies and supports.
- ConneQT: provides LGBTQI+ youths with shelter and transitional living through host homes, or community members who have opened up their homes for a youth to live with them.
- Abule Collective Housing: Avenue’s newest program, which pairs BIPOC youth with BIPOC community members to providing transitional housing, mentoring, and culturally centered support.
At Avenues, our programs are centered around education, career, mental health, and wellness support to youth.
I asked Melissa Cuff, Director of Development at Avenues for Youth, as well as Marketing and Communications Manager, Rachel Blair-Paladino if they could tell me more about their programs and the people they serve:
“Avenues supports youth ages 16-24 who are experiencing homelessness. The majority of youth we work with are youth of color and experiencing a number of barriers to housing, such as poverty, family issues, or safety issues. [Our] Avenues ConneQT program specifically supports youth who identity as LGBTQI+ because a disproportionate number of youth experiencing homelessness are LGBTQI+.
“Throughout all of the programs, Avenues centers on a social justice and trauma-informed approach to our work.”
I asked the pair what upcoming events Avenues for Youth had planned?
“Avenues’ annual Building on Dreams event is on March 23, 2021 from 7:30 – 9:00 a.m. The virtual event, hosted on Whova, is free and open to anyone who wants to attend.”
“Building on Dreams is MC’d by Kare 11’s Rena Sarigianopoulos. You’ll hear from a variety of speakers, including our Keynote Speaker Rebecca Lucero, the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, and youth impacted by Avenues. Money raised during the event directly impacts youth experiencing homelessness.” Learn more about the event and register at https://avenuesforyouth.org/building-on-dreams/
How has COVID-19 impacted the way Avenues for Youth administers services?
“Keeping youth safe and healthy has always been a top priority at Avenues. With the help of our partners, we were prepared for COVID-19 and swiftly took actions to keep youth safe. This included minimizing traffic within our spaces and temporarily stopping in-home visits, and reducing three-person bedrooms to two-person bedrooms (to keep social distancing) at Minneapolis Avenues.” They told me they’ve implemented “In-depth sanitizing regimens,” and they’re “Wearing masks in common areas and maintaining social distancing at least six feet apart at all times.” The administrative team at Avenues quickly adapted to a remote work environment.
How can people get involved with Avenues for Youth? Donations? Volunteers?
“Recently, Avenues made a big impact on youth during the holidays. Thanks to many generous donors, every youth and family in our programs [received] gifts and had something to unwrap during the holidays. Youths got new winter gear, candy, and gift cards to pick out whatever they wanted. Several youths said that this was their first time receiving gifts for the holidays.”
Learn more about Avenues for Youth, and learn how you can help support their mission at https://avenuesforyouth.org/.