Colder weather means shelters see increase in demand, but staffing shortages remain

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On an average day, YouthLink in Minneapolis will serve many unhoused youths between the ages of 16 and 24. But on a cold day like on Monday, that number skyrockets.

"We do as much or as little as the youth need, we provide meals, case management, access to other services, on-site showers and laundry, we have an access for youth to a clothing closet," Michelle Basham explains. Basham is the interim executive director of YouthLink.

"Each night in Minnesota, more than 10,000 young people are going to experience homelessness, and we only have enough shelter space in the entire state to respond to about 5% of the youth experiencing homelessness," she said.

Basham says a dramatic weather change like this has severe consequences for youths.

"Number one, they don’t have time to make adjustments or plans, and number two, other young people in tenuous, abusive or exploitative situations will be forced to stay there," she shared.

YouthLink is an overflow space when it gets too cold and will stay open 24 hours a day.

Basham says the people YouthLink serves need undergarments, basic hygiene products, gift cards and volunteer help.

"Even if you can’t end homelessness, one person can make a lot of difference," she said.

Along with the cold weather, YouthLink is like many other nonprofits dealing with staffing difficulties.

A new report not yet released from the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits reveals of 300 nonprofits surveyed, about half of them are struggling to hire new employees, and about 40% are dealing with significant staff turnover.

"It has been challenging for YouthLink, just like many other organizations," Basham said.

Basham said the need for mental health support for youth is also greater than ever.

"Now, because there is even more demand for mental health needs from the general public, they (youth) have even less access for services, and across the homeless youth community, we are all struggling to get mental health needs for our young people," she said.

YouthLink is always looking for volunteers and donations.