On an infant mattress in a barren bedroom, Brittni Jones, 18, and her daughter Alissa, 21 months, seemed to marvel at their good fortune. They were no longer homeless. Jones and her daughter had been “couch hopping” for the past few months and had stayed in five different places with friends or relatives. Lately, Jones had been calling around to homeless shelters, looking for a bed. “I started getting stressed out,” she said. “I felt nothing was going right.”

Then she met Karrie Schaaf, YMCA youth development director, who helped her apply for a federal grant under the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program, which provides supplemental funding for an apartment for up to one year while helping the client with education and job training. Jones is working on earning her GED. “She's very grateful and very patient,” Schaaf said. After the first day in their new apartment in Coon Rapids, Jones said, “I feel like I don't have any worries.” For her part, Alissa was drawing furiously. “She's actually making herself at home,” said her mom. Jones admits to feeling desperate during their journey but gives this advice: “You can't give up. You can't doubt yourself.”