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Helping the Youngest of Minnesota's Homeless Children

PHOTO: A program focused on the youngest of Minnesota's homeless children is providing stability and better outcomes in areas like health and education. Photo credit: Randen Pederson / Flickr.
PHOTO: A program focused on the youngest of Minnesota's homeless children is providing stability and better outcomes in areas like health and education. Photo credit: Randen Pederson / Flickr.
June 24, 2014

DULUTH, Minn. - They are some of Minnesota's most vulnerable citizens, but efforts to give the youngest of the state's homeless children a promising future are beginning to find success.

Carolyn Link, executive director of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation, says one focus of the foundation's Growing Up Healthy initiative is to help families access stable housing. She says that stability sets the course for good outcomes for kids.

"They're able to focus better in school and have a stable school environment, access to routine and healthy food, and lower stress levels," says Link. "It really adds up. When we help families with young children have stable housing, it helps them in every other facet of their lives."

According to the latest data from St. Paul-based Wilder Research, on any given night there are some 3,500 homeless children in Minnesota, with about half aged five or younger.

Among the groups the foundation is supporting in addressing the issue of young homeless children is Churches United in Ministry in Duluth, where coordinator Marilyn Larson says they're preparing to open a new emergency shelter next year that will house 44 families.

"It will be a place that's permanent for them as long as they pay their rent," says Larson. "They'll be able to settle into a 'what do we do with our lives now that we're not worried about where we're going to sleep' routine, and that's really an opportunity to work in all areas of their lives to reach their hopes and dreams."

In all, three Duluth neighborhoods where young children face challenging socioeconomic conditions are being supported through the grants. A majority of the families targeted in these communities are headed by single mothers with at least one related child under age five.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN