COON RAPIDS, Minn. (WCCO) — Being homeless isn’t just a problem for adults — it’s estimated that in the Anoka-Hennepin school district, more than 500 of the county’s youth spend their nights without a secure place to call home.

For many of these kids, that means sleeping in cars, under bridges or bouncing between sofas at a friend’s home.

It’s a problem many don’t want to talk about, as children and teens spend life on the streets. Many of them come to the noprofit Hope 4 Youth with little more than the clothes on their backs.

“They may just come and get food, do their laundry and take a shower, and when you build a relationship you understand their deeper needs,” Hope 4 Youth’s Program Supervisor Kristan Clow said.

Hope 4 Youth is an emergency, daytime-only drop-in center for Anoka County’s homeless young people.

“When they’re sleeping outside they come in really, really cold,” Clow said.

The center housed in the old creamery building along the banks of the Rum River is an oasis of basic, every day needs. However, what it can’t provide teens is a place to spend the night.

Clow adds that teens come to the center for a number of reasons, including troubled families, parents battling addiction or even flight from a foster care setting.

She says young people come to the center and say, “‘I can’t stay at my place or I’m living with my grandma, and it’s a senior high rise and she’s not supposed to have anyone there.’ That’s when we start searching for beds, and there just aren’t any.”

That lack of housing for Anoka County’s youngest of the homeless is about to change. Hope 4 Youth has just signed a deal to turn a former Coon Rapids dance studio into transitional housing for homeless young adults. It’s situated just off Coon Rapids boulevard, a few blocks from Northtown mall.

“It’s been a long time in the works,” Hope 4 Youth board member Paul Ekstrom said.

The 10,500 square foot building will be rehabbed into 12 studio sized apartments that will be leased to homeless young adults, ages 18 to 24. The low rents will allow the young tenants to afford returning to school to complete their educations and the ability to hold down jobs.

“Our goal is to get them back on their feet and down the right path in 18 to 24 months so then we can bring in another group of 12,” Ekstrom said.

Remodeling of the site is expected to be completed by May 2016. It’s funded entirely by donors who want brighter futures for the youngest of the less fortunate.

On November 14th the annual “Gala 4 Hope” will be held at the Courtyards of Andover to help raise badly needed funds to support the ongoing mission.

Bill Hudson

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