MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – An organization that helps homeless young adults has turned into an overnight shelter for a record amount of days.
The cold is forcing YouthLink in Minneapolis to keep its doors open. It’s normally open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., but because of the weather it’s been open 24 hours a day for seven straight days.
Heather Huseby, YouthLink’s executive director, says when the temperature outside hits 10 degrees below zero they open their building at night to become a shelter.
“We know that we have to find a place of safety,” she said. “And the only place of safety that we can find really is that we extend our hours.”
YouthLink has been allowing young adults aged 18 to 24 to use their facility as an overnight shelter — about 10 to 15 people per night, according to Huseby. That’s not uncommon when you consider Minnesota’s cold winters, but Huseby says having to do so for a week straight is something new.
“Having a safe place to stay can make a difference between life and death for them,” she said.
Huseby said the Minneapolis Police Department is aware that YouthLink has extended its hours. Just last weekend, she said an officer brought in two young people who were planning to spend the night outside in the cold. The temperatures outside were well below zero with wind chills around -25 degrees.
“Usually a youth is very brave and says ‘I’m going to stay outside,'” she said. “These youth are used to it but the cold weather can take a really hard turn on them.”
Extending the hours means stretching their supplies. They’ve been going through food, donated winter clothes and hand warmers faster than normal. Staff are also working overtime to supervise those who stay overnight.
Huseby said they’re hoping more donations come in, since the frigid temperatures are showing no signs of stopping.
“We can’t in good conscience send young people out again,” she said.
YouthLink will be open 24 hours through Saturday, pushing the streak to nine days.
Huseby said on average about 150 youth visit YouthLink during the day to receive services such as help with education and job placement. If you’d like to make a donation to help the organization has a list of needs on its website. Click here to see what’s needed.