During this Pride season, it is easy only to think of ourselves, only to think of the struggle and the obstacles we in the GLBT community have overcome in an effort to live healthy, productive, and accepted lives. But during this time, it is also important to look past our own community into the community at large, and to take pride in the world’s progress toward acceptance of us.
YouthLink, a Twin Cities-based youth-service organization, is one such entity that more than deserves our recognition. It provides essential services to the thousands of homeless youth in the metropolitan area. Services include a comprehensive onsite health clinic, education, enrichment, and service courses held right in the Downtown location. The organization promises that each and every child who passes through its doors is met with respect and understanding—no one is turned away.
The staff at YouthLink should be most proud of their ability to convey compassion. While not specifically GLBT-identified, the organization manages an unparalleled sense of understanding and acceptance within its walls. The staff truly are blind to the prejudice we are so accustomed to the outside world. Lending a helping hand is always first and foremost. They aim to serve the entire person: mind, body, and spirit.
Through its extensive network of caseworkers, mentors, organizational partners, and volunteers, YouthLink is able to serve a staggering 22,000 young people a year, hoping always to expand its services in order one day to end this growing need.
Carol Gronfor, YouthLink Director of Development and Community Relations, says, “This really is a full-circle place. A lot of people have somehow cycled through, overcoming amazing circumstances to become amazing, productive people.”
The success stories are literally innumerable. The dedication extends to the entire community.
Jesse Siegel, a case manager specializing in GLBT youth, speaks very highly of his peers: “It really is amazing the kind of work that we are able to do, and the different programs that we offer. We’re very unique.”
Siegel stresses the disproportionate number of minorities experiencing homelessness at any given time. However, YouthLink is more than prepared to aid them. Within the complex, it has a separate space specifically for GLBT youth.
This space is, in Siegel’s words, “a place of our own, where [the youth] can be themselves, sometimes for the first time.”
It’s certainly important for children who all too often are put on to the street because of their sexual orientation. YouthLink takes the time to understand and to tailor its services to each individual. For GLBT youth, it might mean introducing them to positive experiences within the community.
YouthLink operates closely with District 202, and also organizes trips and events specifically for GLBT youth. In addition, health services include access to hormone treatment and counseling for trans-identified youth.
Though the task of serving homeless youth is never ending, perhaps the acceptance and understanding so common at YouthLink will spread out through those it serves. By instilling understanding, the organization has proved invaluable. Without a doubt, it’s deserving of both our recognition and our pride.
41 N. 12th St., Mpls.