ST. PAUL, Minn. - This week three food shelves devoted to homeless youth will open in Ramsey County, fulfilling a need in an area without such a resource.
The new Ramsey County food shelves will offer the help to residents like Jeanna Fuller, 22, who first experienced homelessness at age nine. In her teens, she was on her own, never knowing where she would lay her head or find her next meal.
"I was couch-hopping with different friends and there were times they said 'We don't have enough food to feed you. You have to go somewhere else,'" said Fuller.
Fuller eventually crossed paths with StreetWorks Collaborative, a youth outreach network, and through the organization will offer able to offer a hand to others in the same invisible crisis, as now an outreach worker herself.
Monday, StreetWorks, along with the Twin Cities Salvation Army, will open the food shelves for homeless youth. Each location -- two in St. Paul, one in Maplewood -- will not require any sort of identification or permanent address to pick up food. StreetWorks staff will run the youth food shelves, while the Salvation Army will provide the food and space, expecting to see many visitors between the ages of 18 and 21.
"There is a very silent group of young people that are couch-hopping, they may be able to stay some place for two weeks and they are off to the next place so we are trying to engage them in spots where they are at because they are not necessarily hanging out in downtown Minneapolis," said Matt Lasure, a program manager at StreetWorks.
On any given night in the state of Minnesota, an estimated 2,400 youth have no place to call home. A 2012 poll by the Wilder Research Center found more than 1,151 of those kids are on their own.
"Look at your kids when you tuck them into bed and think about how you fed your kid that day. You have food in your fridge," said Rachel, another outreach worker with StreetWorks, who has been homeless as well.
"Nobody wants to be hungry at night. Certainly nobody wants to sleep outside. I would like to give back. If I didn't have some of those resources, I didn't know where I would be," she said.
Fuller will also work to launch one of the food shelves, where the outreach will begin. She says the goal is to help young people fulfill other basic needs as well, from shelter to counseling.
"Which is why I work so hard, I want to make sure youth know there are these resources out here," said Fuller.
The food shelves are open 3 to 5 p.m. on various days at these Salvation Army Centers.
Mondays and Thursdays: 1019 Payne Ave., St. Paul
Tuesdays: 401 W. 7th St., St. Paul
Wednesdays: 2080 Woodlynn Ave., Maplewood
Donations of easy-to-prepare nonperishable foods, such as microwaveable one-person meals, are encouraged at each youth food shelf.
Currently, Hennepin County has four food shelves for children and young adults.
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