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YouthLink Helps Homeless Youth With The Support They Need

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(credit: CBS) Rachel Slavik
Rachel Slavik joined the WCCO team in October of 2010 and is thrill...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — For four decades, YouthLink has been helping homeless youth with food, counseling and academic support.

Lianna Moor has been on both sides of the services at YouthLink. Now she serves food, but for years she was one of the homeless youth, age 16 to 24, served by YouthLink.

“Before YouthLink, I would just walk on the streets all day, go into stores, steal, just to help myself,” said Bianca Carter.

But besides their traditional services, both benefited from a creative new program offered by the Minneapolis nonprofit.

“One of the things that we’ve learned through 40 years of this work is that we need to address peer network, social network,” said Josephine Pufpaff, YouthLink director of strategic design.

Last year, YouthLink experimented with Outward Bound experiences for youth moving towards housing.

“The outward bound experiences created opportunities to lean on each other, in different way than happens when you’re homeless,” Pufpaff said.

They’re activities some businesses use for team building, creating the kind of bonds these young adults would need in their new environments.

And what about the results?

Ninety percent of the first group are in housing, almost all paying their own rent. Eighty percent are working, and most are back in school.

“Life’s definitely better,” Carter said. “Sometimes I just walk into my house and say, ‘This is my house.’”

Outward Bound is part of a program that also includes step-down rent subsidies that fall from 100 percent to 0 percent by the end of the year.

It costs about $10,000 apiece, which is about the same as just doing a pure rent subsidy for a full year.

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