INVESTMENT IN HOMELESS YOUTH HITS CLOSE TO HOME

Paul Swanson's picture

By Neal St. Anthony @nstanthony@startribune.com; Sunday, April 17, 2016

The last time he was beaten by school bullies, at l7, Jamie Nabozny required hospitalization. The gay teenager ran away to Minneapolis, in 1993, resolving never to return to his hometown. He had been hassled by thugs since middle school. He sought refuge at YOUTHLINK, a Minneapolis center for homeless young people between 16-24.

A case manager helped him get counseling, shelter, eventually an apartment through Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, a bus card a job and a GED. Today, Nabozny, 41, is a vice president of Sunrise Banks, a college graduate and a volunteer at YOUTHLINK and other nonprofits. "Without the proper support and guidance I could have been another statistic,' strung out on drugs and alcohol ,"Nabozny said. "There weren't a lot of options on the street for a l7 year old. When I was at my lowest, YOUTHLINK was there for me. I I've been a taxpayer ever since." Heather Huseby, the executive director of YOUTHLINIK, long has made the human case to funders for why her outfit, as well as similar nonprofits that help homeless teens such as The Bridge For Youth and Avenues for Homeless Youth, are a good investment for foundations, business and generous individuals." We see 2,000 young people come through our drop-in center every year, "Huseby said. "Ninety percent are youth of color and lower income. We need to get them educated, self-empowered, housed and employed. If we can make a difference with these youth….we crack the 'achievement gap' and the 'employment gap'. We crack the nut for a lot of problems in our city." "The best opportunity is before they reach 25. If they are still disconnected when they reach 25, their chance for an independent life diminishes. Huseby believes she and other homeless-youth advocates now can make a great return-on-investment case for their work. Economists Steven Foldes and Andrea Lubov of Foldes Consulting, thanks to more than $ 150,000 in funding from Bremer Foundation and Hearst Foundation, have concluded a study of l,451 youths who received services from YOUTHLINK in 2011. The conclusion: If just 89 of the 1,451 or 6 percent of the study group achieve financial independence by age 20,Minnesota taxpayers break even on the total one-year cost of intervention programs supporting the rest of the group. YOUTHLINK spent about $12,800 per teen client in 2011, for a total of $l8.6 million, including public subsidies for housing, health care and welfare. Üsing a well-established economic model, each person who remains financially dependent imposes a lifetime cost on taxpayers of $ 248,000," Foldes said. "In other words, if all 1,451 members of the group we studied remain dependent on taxpayer-funded programs such as welfare, shelter….interaction with the criminal justice systems would face lifetime costs of $360.1 million." Early-stage intervention programs that working collaboratively to resolve kids do work, sometimes working collaboratively to resolve family issues and return them to home. That means less selling drugs, prostituting, stealing or other crimes. Supportive housing, education and employment training for a year or two is far less costly than a $50,000-a -year Minnesota prison cell or juvenile detention facility. And most offenders have a background of family problems, education failure and other troubles. Agencies such as YOUTHLINK, struggle every year for the government and philanthropic funds to fully implement intervention and supportive services for the established 4,000 Minnesotans between l6 and 24 who are homeless, according to Wilder Research. Kids leave home for many reasons; sometimes kicked out or abandoned by parents, or out of desperation. Most have little money or hope. they are prey for predators, lives of crime, and dependence. " The costs of inaction are enormous, "Huseby said. "Successfully intervening with homeless youth who fall behind in these crucial steps before they turn 25 is an essential window of opportunity.

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