In Minnesota alone, roughly 6,000 youth in have experienced homelessness. Leading research organization Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago estimates that among youth ages 13-17, at least 1 in 30 (roughly 700,000 youth) experience homelessness each year: Chapin Hall Youth Homelessness Brief.
Most youth who are or have experienced homelessness have faced unhealthy family dynamics or have been kicked out of their home, leaving them to find shelter through couch hopping, relatives, or in unorthodox locations. Although each crisis varies from case to case; these cases all still count as homeless. 180 Degrees continues to empower youth and families to help stop the cycle of homelessness. Opened in 2015, Hope House Youth Shelter is open 24/7 for youth in crisis, ages 14-19.
Hope House Program Manager Abigail Botten and Outreach Manager Emma Silkey work together to bring hope at this six-bedroom short-term crisis shelter in Excelsior, MN. Abigail describes Hope House as “a safe place for teens in crisis to [have] resources they need for their journey.”
Many of the youth entering Hope House feel they have little control over their lives. Their experiences are rooted in things like shifting family dynamics and relationships, struggling to have their voices heard, and lacking control over their family's housing situations.
At Hope House, staff meet youth where they're at and empower them along the way. Our goal is to help youth build control over their life and gain confidence with their autonomy. Youth are encouraged to develop personal goals and are introduced to community resources, setting them up with tools to take beyond the program. They gain control over their lives by determining the resources that best suit their needs.
“A lot of youth just want the opportunity to have a say; being a teen is really hard... so what does that look like for us to be able to give youth the autonomy to have choices?” Abigail asks. She describes how giving youth control over what they want for a meal is a lesson in making choices. “It all comes down to that small window,” Emma continues, “It can translate to have the autonomy to make decisions down the road and does start with making small decisions.”
Youth at Hope House are a part of a Youth Council that make decisions about daily activities at Hope House. This is another way to reinforce youth having control over their environment; something some youth have never experienced.
Emma talks about the confidence youth gain at Hope House, “It is up to the [youth] to take the first step to ask for help, which can be hard...” she says, “There are so many more [people] that are with you, on your side... It’s about having the confidence to take that first step.”
Community is an integral part of Hope House. Volunteers make meaningful contributions every week. Recently, seven boy scouts renovated the garage, creating a new Clothing Closet. Now youth have an easier time selecting clothing if they stay for several weeks. Throughout the year, volunteers provide essential needs, including meals, clothing, and even art supplies.
“Without the support of the community, those that give financially, and those that give their time to help bring awareness to youth homelessness, we wouldn’t be where we are now.” Abigail finishes.
Hope exists at Hope House -- youth are a part of a program that creates a safe space for healing and change.
Make sure to follow Hope House on Instagram @HopeHouseMN.