$2.5 million Bezos grant will fight family homelessness in north Minneapolis, metro area

2021-11-24 20:39:35 –

Angel Ortiz has just started a new job. A 22-year-old single mother of an infant is working on a new program to help young adults who have recently completed foster care learn how to live independently.

At The Link, a non-profit organization in northern Minneapolis, to prevent the homeless, Otis helps teach life skills such as how to cook, pay invoices and stay on top of other responsibilities. She and her colleagues can now help more people, thanks to the largest grant the program has received in its 30-year history.

Shortly before Thanksgiving, Link received $ 2.5 million from the Bezos Day 1 Family Fund, launched by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, to help organizations provide shelter and hunger support for young families across the country. rice field. This grant is part of approximately $ 400 million that the fund has provided to organizations across the country fighting the homeless since 2018.

Otis fully understands how important it is. Like many Link employees, she once set foot on a non-profit organization.

Shakopee natives first experienced homelessness at the age of 12 when they were placed in a juvenile alternative facility in Jordan. She bounced off the volatile life of teens, including homeless, foster parents and exploiters, and was helped by the 17-year-old The Link’s Passageways Shelter.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Otis realized he was facing the homeless again. This time I was with my baby. The housing program via the link got her shelter and support.

She now has her place and, faithful to Link’s youth and adult-led models, she has returned to the organization. This time as an employee and mentor of other people facing a difficult life journey.

“They don’t just drop you. They’re stable,” Otis said of an organization that has been helping her for six years. “Many people working here come from living experiences. They understand. People look at the homeless and say,” Why can’t they do better? ” (But) there are many barriers that are difficult to overcome and difficult to escape. Everyone I met was homeless. Everyone was trying. No one wanted to be there. “

She was founded 30 years ago by former Minnesota Viking players Jim Marshall and Oscar Reed to combat the cycle of homelessness, sex trafficking, and youth and family involvement in the juvenile justice system. It is one of the many success stories of the organization.

“When we started, we were just a’small engine that could’,” said Marshall, a longtime Viking defensive end who still lives in Twin Cities. “I’m surprised that 30 years later, the organization has grown, adapted and become a very important part of the community.”

Last morning, the organization’s CEO Beth Holger and Kesha Bradford, director of housing and services at The Link, sat on the sofas at headquarters in northern Minneapolis. Dozens of board games were sitting on the shelves. Next to them was a chest freezer: “Frozen meal, help yourself.” Nearby was a room full of holiday donations, ready for sorting and distribution.

Grants to Links come at a crucial time. Pandemics are increasing the homeless and are putting more focus on this issue. And the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder highlighted the main focus of links to young black families and adolescents experiencing homelessness in northern Minneapolis.

“We’re still a little stunned,” Holger said of the grant. “At first I thought,’Is this a joke?’. The last two years have been very hard. I think it was hard for everyone, but these black youths and blacks who are experiencing homelessness The hardest part of the family. These young people and their families have gone through hell for the past two years. This grant has helped to cheer us up. “

“Because boys, does it get heavier,” Bradford added.

In 2018, Link’s Street Outreach team collaborated with 54 young people and young families experiencing homelessness. In 2020, that number surged to 484, almost tenfold. In 2018, Link accommodated 37 young people in an emergency shelter. That number increased to 166 in 2020, and as a result, Link launched two more such programs.

A group focused on the homeless of young people and young families aims to stop the cycle at its roots. According to a 2020 report by Wilder Research, more than half of the homeless Minnesotan people surveyed were first homeless before the age of 24, and 36% were first homeless before the age of 18.

Observers say the number of youth homeless people in Minnesota is a hidden issue in clear visibility. One night, more than 7,000 children in the state are experiencing homelessness with their families, and an additional 5,000 unaccompanied young people under the age of 24 are experiencing homelessness themselves.

The youth and family experiences that Link offers are often horrifying. They can be survivors of domestic violence, sex trafficking, homelessness and substance abuse. Two young people in the program recently shot dead their partners in the heightened gun violence of the Twin Cities.

“I’m scared in the morning to find out what happened last night,” Holger said of their work.

Bezos grants are aimed at Link’s young family program, but organizations need to continue to raise money for other jobs, such as juvenile judicial substitution programs and efforts to intervene in school refusal. Link has 186 employees and an annual budget of $ 12 million. Part of the grant goes to more housing for young people and families experiencing homelessness. Link currently has 208 residential units throughout Twin Cities.

“There is no excuse, and there is no reason why young people and families shouldn’t have a safe place to lie down at night,” Bradford said. “As long as it matters, it keeps us motivated.”

Holger further states: Watch their eyes come and their empowerment and self-confidence grow. No matter how many years you have been in this world, it will never be old. “

$2.5 million Bezos grant will fight family homelessness in north Minneapolis, metro area Source link $2.5 million Bezos grant will fight family homelessness in north Minneapolis, metro area

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