Photos: Youth hunger and homelessness in Minnesota

1 A homeless young person, 19, writes poems on his cell phone on Thursday, August 25, 2011 in Minneapolis, Minn. He writes poetry to explain what life has been like since he became homeless. For privacy and security reasons, he has asked that his name not be used. The young man left home at the age of 18 due to problems with his family. To get by, he stayed at churches, in shelters, and with friends. He sometimes stole food just to survive. He says homelessness tests your will to live. Now that he is staying at Avenues for Homeless Youth, an emergency shelter and short-term housing facility in Minneapolis, he gets three meals a day and no longer worries about food. Despite all the challenges he has faced, he is optimistic about his future, and hopes to attend Minneapolis Community and Technical College. 
2 Catherine Brenner, 19, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, spent time at YouthLink, a drop-in center for homeless youth in Minneapolis, Minn. on Friday, August 26, 2011. YouthLink is a place where young people ages 16-21 can go for many kinds of help, including hot meals, basic health care, assistance finding long-term housing, and assistance looking for a job. Brenner became homeless shortly after turning 18, and is a mother to an 8-month-old girl. She says before finding YouthLink, she had a hard time finding food -- especially during her pregnancy. She would steal food and would sometimes go days without eating. Brenner currently receives $200 a month in food stamps, and sometimes holds a sign by the street to ask for money. She sends what she can to her sister, who is taking care of her daughter. Brenner says great things can come from being homeless. She is working on her GED and wants to enroll in college next year and hopefully become a teacher or a social worker for children. Ultimately, she would like to say she accomplished something good. 
3 Crystal Brinkman, 34, of Minneapolis, and Patreacia "Pooh" McCloud, 20, of Minneapolis repair a bicycle at Full Cycle in Minneapolis, Minn. on Friday, August 26, 2011. Full Cycle is a non-profit bicycle shop that provides six-month, paid internships for homeless young people and teaches them about bike repair and basic business skills. It also provides them with bikes, helping them with transportation so that they can get to jobs and to food help. McCloud has been an intern there for the past five months and will be graduating soon. 
4 Patreacia "Pooh" McCloud, 20, of Minneapolis, worked at Full Cycle in Minneapolis, Minn. on Friday, August 26, 2011. Pooh does not think of herself as homeless, though she does often couch hop and occasionally walks all night or takes a bus all night if she can't find a place to stay. She spent time in foster care, but is able to stay with her mother in St. Paul when she chooses. Unlike many young people with unstable housing, she says she does not often worry about food and can turn to her mother for that. She does sometimes eat inexpensive, unhealthy food if it is all she can afford. Pooh works two jobs and says she loves her job at Full Cycle, where she is a mechanic. She graduated from high school and hopes to one day help troubled teens. 
5 Matt Tennant, 40, of Minneapolis, is the director and founder of Full Cycle, a non-profit bicycle shop that works with homeless youth ages 23 and under. The shop hires homeless young people for six-month, paid internships and teaches them about biking, bike repair, customer service, and basic business skills such as how to write a resume and how to interview. Young people who graduate from the program leave with references from three professional adults and connections to future employment. Tennant says through the course of working with a young person for six months, a mentor can really get to know them and understand where they have been, where they are at, and where they want to be. He said the kids they work with are already self-sufficient, and the program helps to move them from self-sufficiency to independence. In addition to the internship program, Full Cycle also gives away over 150 bikes a year to homeless young people who cannot afford one while connecting them to other community resources. Tennant has also opened Groveland Food For Youth, a Minneapolis food shelf for young people. 
6 Angel Downs, 20, of Minneapolis and program supervisor Katie Miller, 36, of Minneapolis, relax in the backyard of Nicollet Square in Minneapolis, Minn. on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2011. Nicollet Square is a new supportive housing program in Minneapolis. Downs became homeless in 2009, when she left her father. Downs' father had been struggling financially, and the two of them were homeless together before she had to live on her own. She found shelter through couch hopping -- staying with friends or other people who offered their homes -- with up to 15 to 20 other young people until she moved into Nicollet Square four months ago. She has worked low-wage jobs since she was 15, and with the money she had, she would buy the cheapest food, such as chips, soda and noodles, often sacrificing nutrition. Downs currently works at the YMCA and earns $200 a week, and receives $135 a month in food stamps. She says YouthLink was instrumental in getting her on the right path, and hopes to be a social worker or counselor, working with teens. 
7 Katie Miller and Angel Downs talk in the Nicollet Square lounge on Thursday, August 26, 2011 in Minneapolis, Minn. Nicollet Square is a new supportive housing program for youth transitioning out of homelessness or foster care. It provides studio apartments for 42 young people. Transition coaches like Katie Miller, program supervisor at the development, help tenants with job skills and independent living skills, including cooking and budgeting. Downs has been at Nicollet Square for four months, and anticipates staying for one year. 
8 Two young women visit Groveland Food For Youth in Minneapolis, Minn. on Thursday, August 25, 2011. The food shelf, located at Plymouth Congregational Church, serves homeless and transitional youth. Started by Matt Tennant, founder of Full Cycle, the food shelf aims to make young people feel comfortable and welcome and employs some homeless young people to work during open hours. Tennant says homeless youth who use the food shelf are in a variety of living situations; some are couch hopping, some sleep in shelters, some may be train hopping. The food shelf tries to stock food that they can put in their backpacks and eat without cooking. 
9 Russell Daye, 19, of Fridley, visited YouthLink, a drop-in center for homeless young people, on Friday, August 27, 2011 in Minneapolis, Minn. Daye has been homeless several times in the past five years, living at shelters and couch hopping. He receives food stamps, but says he never has enough food at the end of the month, in part because he has to buy meals day-to-day rather than stock up at the grocery store. He sometimes eats at YouthLink, although he says transportation to and from downtown Minneapolis can be a challenge. Daye was in foster care as a child and recently lost his mother. He admits he has made bad decisions in life, but got his GED with help from YouthLink and recently secured a full-time job with benefits at Wal-Mart. He is father to a five-year-old girl who currently lives with her mother in Iowa, and he says his daughter was his motivation for turning his life around. He is a singer, and wants to practice law.