Non-profit hopes to create first Anoka County youth homeless shelter

Currently, there is no overnight shelter for homeless youth in Anoka County. Many ride a metro bus all night, sleep outside, or end up in other unpleasant overnight situations.  But the non-profit HOPE 4 Youth is hoping to change that by transitioning into an overnight housing facility for homeless youth in the area.

“Some of them are couch hopping, staying in vehicles, coming here on the daily to take showers, do what little bit of laundry they have,” Tyler Pollard, who uses HOPE 4 Youth, said.

In the first six months of 2015, 204 youth who visited the drop-in center identified housing as their most urgent need. The non-profit currently serves homeless youth by helping them find jobs, finish school, secure housing, and access health and wellness services.  

Since opening in 2013, HOPE 4 Youth has tried and failed to get city approval for an overnight youth shelter. But by next summer, they're hoping to finally have somewhere in the county where these young people can stay not just for the night, but for up to 36 months.

“I remember being there on a February night, and it was snowing like crazy,” Paul Ekstrom, Housing Committee Chair, HOPE 4 Youth, said.  “There were about seven youth heading out into the night and that’s when we said, ‘we’ve got to do something about this.’”

The Coon Rapids Planning Commission voted unanimously this month to approve use flexibility on the property as an overnight makeshift shelter for youth.  The final step will be for the city council to approve the usage at a hearing next Tuesday, Oct. 6.

“There have been many times when volunteers and myself have just worried when we leave,” Kristan Clow, program supervisor at the drop-in center, said. “We just don’t know what’s going to happen. We hope we see them the next day.”