A Source of Encouragement and Hope

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Chanté Liddell is a polished Spoken Word artist and proud working mother at a nonprofit where she helps others find good-paying jobs to support their families.Having lived through housing instability as a child and lots of family heartache, she is a great source of encouragement and hope.

“People who have fallen on hard times really connect with me because I was there,” she said.

As a young child, Chanté remembers a happy family life that slowly started to unravel. “It was just a matter of time before my father drank himself to death,” Chanté shared.

In third grade, Chanté also had a secret she was too embarrassed to tell her friends: she was living in a shelter. “I didn’t want to be judged. I just wanted to be a kid living a normal life.”

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Community Champions a Safe Place for Youth

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A house fire and growing challenges with chemical dependency led to homelessness for Jennah. Out of options for stable housing for herself and her unborn child, Jennah found her way to Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota’s The Reach, a drop-in center in Mankato for youth experiencing homelessness and instability in their lives.

As soon as she walked through the doors, she says, she was met with overwhelming support from staff. “Those first hellos were all I needed to know I was in good hands,” she shared.

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Safety and Stability Leads to Success

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When Gecora and her family moved from Chicago to Minnesota, she was excited to start somewhere new. After her father’s growing struggles with addiction led Gecora’s family to homelessness, the excitement she felt turned to disappointment and fear. “I had no idea what was going to happen to us,” she said. Gecora, who was trying to finish high school and get to college, did what she could to help. But a part-time job wasn’t enough. “A lot of the money I earned, my father used to buy his drugs,” she said.

Gecora knew that the longer she stayed in an unsafe, unhealthy environment, the more she was jeopardizing any chance to succeed. She made the decision to leave her family and try to make it on her own. “I was scared, but anything else had to be better than where I was,” she said.

After spending a few nights riding the bus and wandering Minneapolis’ streets alone, Gecora learned of LSS Safe House, an emergency shelter for youth ages 16 to 20-years-old. Last year, LSS of MN metro housing programs for youth – Rezek House, LifeHaven, Safe House and the Transitional Living project – served 210 young people and their children.

“Our work is as unique as the kids we see come through our doors,” said Monica Jones, program coordinator for LSS Youth and Family Services. “They’ve each been through something different, but their need for safety and stability connects them. We make sure they know that what they’ve experienced isn’t their fault, that they are capable of turning their lives around, and that we will walk beside them every step of the way.”

When she moved into the family-style home on a quiet St. Paul street, Gecora finally had the unconditional support and guaranteed safety she needed to get back on track in school. “School was a way to get away from the real world,” she said. “It was a place where I could find support from caring teachers and social workers and have fun with my friends – many of them didn’t even know I was homeless.”

Gecora stayed at Safe House for more than a month before she was approved for an apartment at LSS’ Rezek House, a two-year transitional housing program for youth experiencing homelessness. At first living alone was scary, but she adjusted well. She got a job and regained focus to excel in her classes. While LSS staff cheered her on, Gecora worked very hard and graduated high school with a 3.5 GPA. She is now looking forward to enrolling in college courses.

“Gecora and many other kids come to Rezek and Safe House because they don’t have anywhere else to go to find the security and safety necessary to their success,” said Monica Jones, program coordinator for LSS of MN. “Here, kids know they are loved and safe and they don’t need to worry about finding their next meal. They are able to plan their futures.”

Youth find Passion and Pathways through Art

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Dave Beaman couldn’t ignore a call for volunteers to help with youth experiencing homelessness when it was presented at Nativity Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. “We needed a passionate volunteer to work with youth experiencing homelessness, and we certainly found one in Dave,” said Jen Fairbourne, program director for LSS Metro Homeless Youth Services.

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Paying it forward for other kids

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Manilan Houle grew up just one block from the new site for the LSS Center for Changing Lives in Duluth. He was eight years old when he walked from his home to a nearby pay phone and called the police. He and his siblings were taken to the LSS Bethany Crisis Shelter, where the staff remembered him from a previous visit.

“I was filled with fear, not knowing what I had done by making that call to the police,” he said. “But one of the staff there, said, ‘All of the struggles you are going through may seem larger than life right now, but they are temporary. Life is going to be good. Hang in there.’”
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