Jennifer Yandrasits recently celebrated her 18th birthday. Her Burnsville foster family gave her three big baskets: one with cleaning supplies, one with nonperishable food and one with pots, pans and silverware.

She will take them with her this week when she moves into her studio apartment at Lincoln Place, a new building in Eagan that will help youth in danger of homelessness make the transition to adulthood.

Lincoln Place, believed to be the first housing complex of its kind in the suburban Twin Cities, opens April 1.

"I'm just really excited about it," said Yandrasits, who learned of Lincoln Place from a social worker. "I need to learn how to be independent. I like this place because it sounds like there's going to be staff there 24/7, but at the same time I have my privacy and I can kind of do my own thing."

Dakota County and its Community Development Agency (CDA) built the $4.7 million, three-story building. It has 24 efficiency apartments for young adults ages 18 to 24 and 3,000 square feet of common space.

The Link, a nonprofit that runs a similar facility in Minneapolis, will staff Lincoln Place around the clock, offering help with everything from cooking and financial planning to job skills and access to social services.

A caretaker lives on site. Each resident will be matched with a case worker who helps residents set and achieve goals.

"This will be a place where they get not only affordable housing, but they'll also receive the kinds of support that they need to launch themselves more independently in the community," said Patrick Coyne, the county's director of social services.

There's a need for facilities like Lincoln Place, Coyne said. In Dakota County on one day in 2009, a survey found 50 young adults who were homeless or in danger of becoming homeless. Many others, like Yandrasits, age out of foster care.

According to a 2006 statewide study by the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, the number of homeless youth has been on the rise since 2003. Many of those surveyed said their biggest barriers were lack of a job and affordable housing choices. Many of those surveyed also noted it was difficult to get an apartment because of their age, lack of rental history, credit problems and the cost of application fees.

Prospective Lincoln Place residents will apply through the CDA. Rent will be calculated on a sliding scale based on income.

Residents will also have to abide by the apartment building's rules, including no drugs or alcohol.

"Many of these young people who are homeless have come from issues that aren't just around housing," said Steve Griffiths, of The Link. "The person who's living [at Lincoln Place] needs to want to have those supports and be ready for somebody to help them work through some goals."

Yandrasits, who is taking classes at Normandale Community College and plans to eventually enroll at the University of Minnesota, began packing during spring break.

She plans to keep her job at a nearby movie theater and is glad her foster family will still be nearby. But knowing that she'll have support at Lincoln Place is a relief.

"It will be an adjustment to be by myself," Yandrasits said. "In a way that's exciting, but it's also a little bit nerve-wracking."

Katie Humphrey • 952-882-9056