Avenues for Youth: Providing Housing and Holistic Supports to meet Mental, Physical and Life-long Goals
Avenues for Youth recognizes that while most youth experiencing homelessness have faced trauma, they are each unique. They have unique needs, experiences, abilities and aspirations. Each individual is on a personal journey through homelessness and, hopefully, on a path to a bright future.
“Because of their uniqueness, how we partner with each young person also must be unique,” says Kevin Kjonaas, Avenues for Youth’s Associate Director of Development and Communications. “At Avenues, we are guided by the 9 Evidence-based, Guiding Principles to Help Youth Overcome Homelessness, rather than a rules-based approach, and we find this leads to a greater chance at success.”
For more than 28 years, Avenues for Youth has supported youth ages 16 to 24 in Minnesota’s Hennepin County. Whether a young person needs someplace to stay for just one night, or a year and a half, the organization provides support to help youth find their path out of homelessness. Avenues for Youth does that by providing a stable home, building trusting relationships, and navigating the youth’s education, career, health and wellness and housing goals.
The team prides itself on its ability to respond to the community’s needs with strategic and unique programs. For example, because 35% of youth experiencing homelessness in Minnesota are young parents, the organization recognized the need to develop a program that sets families a positive path forward while keeping them together. As such, they launched Avenues for Young Families in 2017. The program uses a rapid re-housing model to provide safe, affordable and supportive housing for young parents and their children, and includes additional services such as mental health therapy, career and education guidance and basic needs like diapers. With these supports, young families achieve housing stability, improve their wellness, gain independent living skills and work toward achieving dreams.
Additionally, Avenues’ ConneQT program was developed in response to the need for safe housing options for LGBTQI+ youth. Too often, queer youth were being harassed in shelter environments shortly after arriving. ConneQT is a host home program that provides LGBTQI+ youth culturally responsive housing within their community of choice. Indicative of its success, the program has been replicated in several communities.
While Avenues for Youth is responsive to the needs of youth, they are also collaborative in their work – and we are thrilled that Avenues has joined the National Runaway Prevention Month (NRPM) partner community. As a new partner, they plan to use social media throughout November to raise awareness of NRPM and the issues impacting youth experiencing housing instability.
For more information about Avenues for Youth, visit avenuesforyouth.org.