Community notebook :: Youthlink renovations

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May 24, 2010
By: Gregory J. Scott
Gregory J. Scott

Renovations begin at YouthLink for new youth center

One of the largest nonprofit youth service providers Downtown just installed a new front door last month. It was a symbolic welcome for an ambitious renovation project that, once completed, will provide an unprecedented consolidation of social services for at-risk youth.

YouthLink, a resource center for homeless youth between the ages of 15 and 21, plans to break ground this week on its new Youth Opportunity Center (YOC). Described in press materials as a “multidisciplinary network of public and non-profit agencies […] in one convenient, accessible and welcoming location,” the future YOC intends to be a one-stop hub of social services for children at risk.

“Instead of youth having to find services throughout Downtown, they’ll be able to come to one spot,” said YouthLink Executive Director Heather Huseby.

According to Huseby, the renovation will allow for four distinct areas. A Health and Wellness area will staff mental health providers and other wellness workers who can help transition young people to adult services. An Education, Career and Employment center will offer hands-on guidance from professional employment counselors from Minneapolis Community and Technical College and state Workforce Centers.

A housing stabilization area will provide information on how to find shelter.

“But the core of it,” said Huseby, “is Project Offstreets, our drop-in crisis center. Youth can come in, get stabilized and get their basic needs met.”

She says YouthLink anticipates serving 1,200 unduplicated homeless youth this year.

In 2008, the new Youth Opportunity Center was incorporated into Hennepin County’s “Heading Home Hennepin” project, a 10-year plan to end homelessness in the Twin Cities by the year 2016.


Currie Avenue Partnership gets a jump-start on housing homeless

Speed seems to be the theme of the Currie Avenue Partnership.

The innovative campaign promising to get 150 disabled homeless individuals out of Downtown shelters and into permanent housing was announced only last December. By March, organizers had raised over $350,000, thanks to an aggressive fundraising campaign by the business community and Downtown faith organizations. Two months later, 10 case workers had been hired, and 15 people who had suffered from chronic homelessness had apartments. By the end of May, organizers say another five will have housing. The goal is to have all 150 out of the shelters by this fall.

According to Gail Dorfman and Cathy ten Broeke, who head the joint Minneapolis/Hennepin County homelessness project, there’s no time to waste.

The two conceived the project as an “emergency response” to the overcrowding they witnessed last winter at a pair of Downtown shelters.

“We realized that many of them had disabilities or were veterans,” Dorfman said of the men and women she and ten Broeke met in the shelters. “They were eligible for mainstream funding. We realized if we could just get some staff in there to work one-on-one with them, we could break this cycle.”

A quick appeal to the Downtown faith and businesses communities, who both hold a stake in reducing homelessness in the city, resulted in the $350,000. The money would pay to hire caseworkers to connect qualifying individuals to existing government Group Residential Housing funds, which help low-income individuals find housing.

The combination of existing government funds, charitable corporate donations and church fundraising was a model that had never been tried in a large American city before. Dorman said that national organizations are closing monitoring the Currie Avenue Partnership’s success.

“We’ve talked to our friends at the National Alliance to End Homelessness,” she said, “and they’re really interested in telling our story around the country to see if other people can replicate this model.”


Open Book celebrates 10-year anniversary

Washington Ave.’s center for the literary arts turned 10 this May, celebrating a decade of close-quartered collaboration between professionals in the literary arts and the book arts.

The Open Book building houses three nonprofit organizations: Milkweed Editions, one of the nation’s top 10 literary presses; the Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA), an atelier and showroom for fine art produced with old printing presses; and the Loft, an oasis for writers offering classes, studio rentals, speaking events and writing group meet-ups. Both the Loft and the MCBA are the largest organizations of their kind in the nation. And Open Book is the country’s only literary arts center that houses the institutions that control it.

The building accommodates more than 10,000 visitors each month.

Meet Minneapolis now on Formspring

Got a query about life Downtown? Looking for the hot concert this weekend? Maybe a bit of history behind your favorite skyscraper?

Meet Minneapolis, the city’s official convention and visitors association, has been providing bite-sized city info for a while now on Twitter. But for responses that demand more than a 140-characters answer, they’re leveraging one of the newest social media tools, Formspring.

Formspring allows anonymous users to pose questions and get immediate responses, and then link them to their Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook accounts. At best, it’s the digital equivalent of talking to a telephone operator, allowing the asking party to get a lengthy answer almost immediately. At worst, it’s an anonymous place to gossip and sound-off, as users can anonymously post rude questions and incite immature responses.

“For Twitter, it’s a lot more ping-ping interactive, it moves so fast,” said Max Bayram, copywriter and website editor for Meet Minneapolis. “But we were getting questions that needed longer answers. So we would just write a blog post and link to it. We think that Formspring will be a lot more personal.”

So what kind of questions is Meet Minneapolis welcoming?

“Pretty much anything about what’s going on in the city,” said Bayram. “We have people here that have lived here forever. There are people here that I could ask pretty much anything.”

Send Meet Minneapolis a question at

ForumFest to bring in big thinkers, big ideas

In celebration of its 30th anniversary this year, the Westminster Town Hall Forum will extend its run into the summer with its first-ever ForumFest. The event is a four-day speaking series where high-profile guests engage the public in a dialogue of ethics and the key issues of the day.

In 1970, Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox addressed the first Town Hall Forum at Westminster Presbyterian Church, at Nicollet Mall and 12th St. Since then, more than 200 distinguished speakers, from Wolf Blitzer to Studs Terkel, have visited the church to explore issues in politics, public policy, literature, the arts and education. Westminster has a photograph of each one archived in its basement arts storage facility.

The 2010 ForumFest schedule includes:

- Wed., June 23, 7 p.m.: “Obama: New Year” with Jonathan Alter, author, political commentator and Newsweek columnist
- Thurs., June 24, 7 p.m.: “Doctors without Borders: Bringing Hope to Haiti” with Johan von Schreeb, surgeon, humanitarian and founder of Sweden’s branch of Doctors Without Borders.
- Fri., June 25, 7 p.m.: “What’s Happened to the News?” with Lizz Winstead, comedian, co-creator of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and co-creator of Air America Radio
- Sat., June 26, 11 a.m.: “Elemental: A Celebration of Spirit and Earth,” a male choral ensemble performance

Food booths in Westminster’s courtyard will offer refreshments for an hour and a half before each event, and 30-minute concert precedes each presentation. A pancake breakfast, at 10 a.m., will precede Saturday’s performance.

Pedestrian Advisory Board seeks community reps

The City of Minneapolis is seeking local residents and business owners to serve on its Pedestrian Advisory Board. Transit riders, urban design professionals and anyone else who has a stake in the city’s walking experience are encouraged to apply. Term lengths are two years.

Created in 2006, the Pedestrian Advisory Committee advises city leadership on methods of improving pedestrian safety, mobility and comfort. It also works to promote walking as transportation and to strengthen relationships with the city’s public transit systems.

For more information, or to apply for a committee position, visit Applications may be submitted at any time, but for summer 2010 appointments, priority will be given to those who apply by May 28.