Homeless shelter for Minnesota youth opens in west metro

Starting Dec. 1, a homeless youth shelter will open in the Chanhassen-Excelsior area to serve the west metro. On Monday, they cut the ribbon to make it official.

When you hear the word "homeless," you probably think of an adult on the streets.  But there are also a lot of teens out there fending for themselves.

"Out here in this area I think people think everything is great,” Pam Langseth, Open Hands Foundation, said.  “When you start looking deeper there are families in crisis and there are 3 to 4 kids a night who literally have nowhere to sleep."

This is a shelter, but not in the traditional sense. There are six beds for kids 10 to 17 years old, medical professionals, and food, all under the roof of an actual house.

"So the issue of youth in crisis comes because of family conflict,” Langseth said.  “Something is going on in the family often with the adults and the kids feel unsafe.  Maybe it's unemployment, chemical use, mental health issues, those are the key drivers of things like this happening."

Langseth is one of the many volunteers with the Open Hands Foundation and other groups making this happen. And so is Kyle Heitkamp.

“You are filled with shame because you want to be like everyone else,” Heitkamp said.

He knows this because he lived this.

“Through my high school years, family had major alcohol abuse,” Heitkamp said.  “I had great loving parents during the day. And at night -- completely out of control -- it would get crazy, so that’s when as a teen you have to decide to stay here or look for a different situation."

Kyle often crashed at the homes of friends.

“If the kids can hear my story, yeah I might've been written off, but they can have a successful happy life once they get that help,” he said.

And that's what this home of healing is about -- help. The organizers are following a model that has worked in other places.  It's a partnership between the Open Hands Foundation, Bridge for Youth and Westwood Community Church. 

They estimate a need for $550,000 dollars a year to keep it running. 

For more information and how to help:

Give MN:  https://givemn.org/organization/openhandsfoundation
Open Hands Foundation http://www.openhandsfoundation.com/
Open Hands Foundation Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/theopenhandsfoundation/