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Answer Man: Read the fine print about homeless youths

If you're having some rain gutter problems, you might want to dig the ice out of your drain trail, Answer Man fan Matt Salerno recommends.

Dear Answer Man, the media has been reporting over and over how there are hundreds of homeless teenagers roaming around Rochester. Where does this information come from, and are there really 300 homeless teens who nonetheless go to school every morning? More importantly, what services are available for homeless young people?

The information comes from various local sources, but the report that sums it up is by the Duluth nonprofit housing developer, Center City Housing Corp. , which wants to build apartments for homeless young people and families in Rochester. They're hoping to buy the former Gage East school and site from the Rochester school district for $1.3 million to build a 55-unit building.

The Center City report, compiled in 2012, is called "Families and Youth Without Stable Housing in Rochester," and that's the more complete way to think about this problem. There are hundreds of young people in Rochester, whether in families or not, who don't have stable, consistent places to live.

They aren't without a roof over their heads 365 days a year. Some may be living with other family members or friends, just not their parents. And the age range isn't just teens, according to the many sources here — the data includes people into their mid-20s, which is stretching the definition of "youths" for some of us.

Here's what the report says, and I'll just note that I had the scoop on this in May 2012, not long after Center City issued its report and began working on a housing project here. I'll link to the complete report online.


The report was underwritten by the New York-based Corporation for Supportive Housing , which has an office in Minneapolis. Among other things, the nonprofit "galvanizes supportive housing solutions with powerful capital funds, specialty loan products and development expertise." It's an advocate for housing for homeless and disabled people.

The estimates in the report come from a Youth Survey conducted in November 2011 (I'm not sure who conducted it); data from the Rochester School District via the Minnesota Department of Education; reports from the Lutheran Social Services LINK program; and data from the Homeless Service Team, a partnership between Olmsted County's Adult and Family Services division and Zumbro Valley Mental Health Center .

The report is somewhat dated, it's fair to note; 2011 and 2012 were pretty tough years for a lot of people, economically.

The Youth Surveyestimated 60 young people (ages 12 to 24) living in "unstable situations" in November 2011. These situations include emergency shelters, hotels/motels, living with family, living in a vacant building or car, or "in another place that was not their own."

The education departmentreported that "104 unaccompanied youth " were attending public schools in Olmsted County in 2010-2011. Generally, these were young people not living with custodial parents. In 2011-2012, the Rochester school district reported 47 unaccompanied youth.

About 58 people ages 17-25 received homeless prevention assistance from the LINK program,at the time of the report.

The Homeless Service Teamworked with 12 people ages 18-25 who were homeless, apparently early in 2012.

So, that's the evidence. There's plenty more to read about homelessness and young people in Minnesota, and I'll add a few more links to this story online.


What services are available? Aside from temporary shelters , there are options you may not have heard of, including the homeless service program at Zumbro Valley Mental Health , which assists adults who meet the definition of "long-term homeless" in finding permanent housing. Call 535-5656 for more details. For more info on LINK, call 258-4108.

For emergency housing, the Dorothy Day Hospitality House is one obvious place to start — call 282-5172.

Deep freeze

Answer Man fan Matt Salernotook a few minutes away from his newspaper, where he was reading and re-reading my column, to go outside last weekend and get his gutters unplugged. I'll let him tell the story from there, and note the attached pic:

"After two weeks of my gutters not draining, I finally pulled several boards off my deck and dug about 18 inches down to see what was clogging my gutters' drain tile. Solid ICE … thankfully, 15 minutes of hot water opened it up, but maybe I can save some others a lot of unnecessary work and just use temporary drainage pipes until the underground pipes thaw out.

"We have lived in this house for 15 years and have never seen this. Thanks."

Hopefully, Matt has the deck put back together and the only ice out there this weekend will be in a tumbler filled with a cold beverage.

What would you do without the Answer Man? Send questions to P.O. Box 6118, Rochester, MN 55903 or answerman@postbulletin.com.

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