Plans to help homeless suburban youth go forward

Plans for an apartment complex in Edina for homeless and at-risk youth 18-24 is moving along slowly, members of Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative said.

The group's director, Lee Blons, said Beacon has secured a site near Southdale Mall to provide housing and other services for suburban homeless youth. She said the location is particularly advantageous.

"There's employment right there, whether it's at Fairview Southdale, which is nearby, or at the Mall," she said.  "It's also at a major transit hub.  It's in a wonderful location for services.  There's the library and the government center and even the YMCA."

This type of housing is needed in the suburbs because many homeless youth can't easily access agencies located in Minneapolis or St. Paul, he said.

"Otherwise, young people have to end up coming into the city or they're ending up getting no help and really struggling.  They might be sleeping on couches," said Blons. "Sometimes we've even heard about young people sleeping in porta-potties in parks to try to get through the night.  So this provides them that safe place to live."

A 2012 Wilder Foundation survey found young adults between 18 and 24 are among the fastest growing homeless population in Minnesota.

Beacon is holding a public meeting to launch the project Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Colonial Church in Edina.  The building will still need approval from the Edina City Council, which is expected to discuss the project next month.

Another effort to help homeless youth in the suburbs is underway in Brooklyn Park, where advocates are working to open a youth shelter with emergency beds and transitional housing.

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