That means the shelter needs volunteers more than ever, especially to mentor guests, said volunteer coordinator Julie Jeppson.
Mentors act as a sounding board for people staying at the shelter. “We find there’s the greatest response when there’s accountability, someone to report to who is a healthy influence,” Jeppson said.
Stepping Stone also needs people to work with guests in groups or one-on-one on basic life skills like money management, goal setting, conflict resolution, “simple things like that, that we take for granted.”
Also, because the facility isn’t equipped to cook food, the shelter tries to find community members who can provide home-cooked meals to the guests, she said.
Often, those meals help forge relationships between volunteers and guests, she said.
Hennepin County Suburban Host Program
This fall, the Hennepin County Suburban Host Program is ramping up a campaign to recruit more host homes in the suburbs.
Through the program from Avenues for Homeless Youth in Minneapolis, community members open up their homes to youth living on the streets.
The program especially needs host homes in Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center, said program manager Jenny Lock.
“We have young people right now waiting for homes in that area,” including someone who’s been waiting for a place since March, she said.
The program began a couple of years ago to fill a void in the suburbs. In the past, housing for local youth on the streets was almost exclusively located in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Lock said.
As a result, suburban youth “didn’t have any options to stay connected to their home community or to be near their high school or part-time job or their friends,” she said. “They had to cut those ties to come into the city to receive housing services.”
The situation was detrimental to them. “It’s easier to be successful when you’re connected to the community and people who care about you,” she said.
That’s where a host home comes in. Usually, an individual or a family hosts a young person for around eight months, she said.
Most of the youth are high school seniors. “They need a safe, stable place to stay while working toward graduation,” Lock said.
While staying in a host home, youth work with a case manager to get into a better position. Hosts get support from the program as well.
The program is looking for volunteers to join its action council to “help us come up with policies and outreach,” she said.