MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The number of homeless youth in Minnesota is on the rise.

On any given night, homeless teens and young adults could fill half the hotel rooms in downtown Minneapolis.

YouthLink is dedicated to helping that almost invisible population, and it’s seen a 15 percent increase in the number of teens who come to them for help.

One of those young people is 18-year-old Sydney, and she’s making strides towards success because of YouthLink.

A freshman at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Sydney is in the nursing program, and after two years, she will transfer to Augsburg College where she hopes to graduate and become a registered nurse.

She’s come a long way from her days of being homeless.

“Being homeless is a serious thing,” Sydney  said. “It’s nothing nice.”

She considers herself lucky. Although she was homeless, she never slept outside or at a shelter. Sydney found friends that let her spend the night.

“I definitely did couch hop,” she said. “I definitely did.”

Sydney’s life changed when she walked into YouthLink. She followed a path of success laid out by the organization and the 30 other agencies that are housed in an unassuming building near downtown Minneapolis.

“I didn’t have a job when I first came in,” Sydney said.

She now works two part-time jobs and lives in housing provided by YouthLink.

“We have 2,215 people walk through our door, and they all have a different story,” said Frances Roen, of YouthLink.

She says most young people come for basic needs. They can find a shower, a hot meal, clean clothes, shelter from the streets and a path to a better life.

“Once they’re here, they realize that we have 30 different services on site for them to take advantage of,” Roen said.

Resources are available for teens like Sydney because of the generosity of people in the Twin Cities. Eighty cents of every dollar donated to YouthLink goes to pathways to housing, employment and education.

“What I want to do is finish school,” Sydney said. “After that, then there is fun time, right now this is work time.”

She hopes to one day return the favor and work with youth who need a little help to make their dreams a reality.

Sydney hopes to get a degree in social work after she completes her nursing program.

Reg Chapman