State government shutdown leaves some teens homeless
Even while she was laid off during Minnesota’s government shutdown, Krista Wicklund's main concern was the young adults she works with as a case manager for the Rochester Area Family Y's LINK program.
"I got a little unemployment. I also have a part-time job," Wicklund said. "I was more worried about the kids not having a place to go."
LINK serves about 250 youths ages 16-21 who are homeless and at-risk of becoming homeless. The program, which serves a four-county area, gets 75 percent of its funding from state grants. It closed July 1 and partially reopened last Thursday.
Part of the program provides rental assistance to young adults. Without that, at least six participants lost their apartments or will this week, Wicklund said.
Karen Banks, 20, of Rochester was one of the LINK participants who lost her rent assistance.
"I was fortunate that my landlord is such a nice guy," Banks said. "He really worked with me."
Banks, who was receiving $41 a week in unemployment compensation, paid her landlord $30 or $40 a week toward her $475 monthly rent, she said.
"I still have a lot of back rent," she said.
At least now she has a job.
Although her job search was hampered while LINK and the Workforce Center were closed, Banks found a part-time job at Chipotle.
"The kids are working really hard and trying their best to pick up extra hours, even going to Labor Ready on their days off," Wicklund said. "They are really trying. They are not just looking for us to help them."
Even so, since returning to work Thursday, Wicklund said she's spent her time brainstorming with clients about where they can stay until they can get emergency assistance.
A few landlords are willing to be flexible. Others are unwilling or unable to bend, Wicklund said.
On Thursday, LINK's drop-in center reopened to help youths look for work, she said. But because the grant that Wicklund works under is specific to youths who have been in foster care, she cannot help many of the clients. The majority of LINK clients fit under a different grant, which will take at least another three weeks to get funded, she said.
That also means that some of LINK's main programs, such as life skills and peer support groups are still on hold, along with the reinstatement of the other full-time case worker.