Imagine one of our state's larger high schools or smaller college campuses, with an enrollment of roughly 2,500 students. Now try to imagine every single student in that school or college as homeless, trying to function, learn and build a path toward a career, without a safe or certain place to sleep at night.
The latest newsletter from Catholic Charities of Minneapolis and St. Paul cites a Wilder Foundation estimate that at any given time there are 2,500 homeless youth (basically teen-agers or under the age of 21) in our state. Many of our dropouts and low-achieving students come from this population and our economy is damaged long-term if we fail them.
One of the more important and yet modest line items in Gov. Dayton's proposed new state budget provides new funding for major improvements in homeless youth services. Catholic Charities is pushing for a state investment of $8 million for this purpose and the key supporting organizations for the Minnesota Homeless Youth Act are impressive, from the Bremer Foundation to Lutheran Social Services to Homes for All, an alliance of more than 40 organizations working toward housing solutions for Minnesota.
This funding at the crucial spigot end of the education pipeline should be viewed as investment rather than charity. Intervention at this stage can mean the difference between young people being dependent or independent, between being part of our costly corrections system or our productive commerce system.
I like what Catholic Charities CEO Tim Marx said in the newsletter: "Youth are resilient and deserve a chance to reach their potential as students, workers, and future builders of our community. The alternative is bad for all Minnesotans, as youth slip through the cracks and spend much of their lives, and too many of our collective resources, in emergency rooms and other costly public systems.''