Twin Cities nonprofits have teamed up to offer a safe haven for young people in crisis in one of the Twin Cities’ most affluent areas — its far western suburbs.
The Open Hands Foundation and the Bridge for Youth soon will open an emergency overnight shelter for suburban teenagers and children in need of an immediate place to stay.
The two-story home at 3010 W. 78th St. in Chanhassen, which has an Excelsior mailing address, will offer sleeping quarters and medical services. The home, donated by nearby Westwood Community Church, will open its doors to youth from ages 10 to 17 on Dec. 1.
About 4,080 Minnesota youth are homeless on any given night, according to the Wilder Foundation.
Often, children in the suburbs are escaping family conflict caused by financial problems or substance abuse, said Pam Langseth, an Open Hands Foundation board member.
“People assume because we’re affluent, everything is OK,” said Langseth, who is also vice chair of the Minnetonka school board. “These kids are caught in family challenges, and there are no services for the kids unless they are downtown.”
The shelter sits on Excelsior’s border with Chanhassen in an area where median household income is estimated at $112,534.
“Especially out here, it’s more of a hidden problem than it is an in-your-face kind of problem,” said Carver County Sheriff Jim Olson. “Because we don’t really have good places for them to go, they head into the cities for places to access.”
Some children end up couch-hopping at friends’ homes, said Minnetonka school counselor Mary Beth Wiig.
The new center is the Bridge for Youth’s second shelter and its first in the suburbs. The organization provides housing to children in Minneapolis, but the far reaches of the county were lacking such housing, Olson said. In the past, officers responding to crises would drive children to a shelter in Minneapolis.
Bridge for Youth staffers and volunteers will run the shelter, which will provide meals, counseling and school transportation for youth. Children can reside in the shelter for up to four nights. The shelter will try to reunite children with their families, Langseth said.
Operating the center will cost about $550,000 a year. The Carver County Board approved a contract with the Bridge for Youth to cover costs.
In September, Bridge for Youth launched a 24-hour texting hot line (612-400-SAFE) for youth in crisis.
Robert Ward, Bridge for Youth’s southwest supervisor and clinical psychologist, said children and teens will need parental consent or county approval to stay in the shelter.