Fighting strike, outreach worker pairs teens with bikes

Share this:
March 29, 2004 // UPDATED 10:28 am - April 25, 2007
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

Matt Tennant, a Red Cross street outreach worker who hits the pavement Downtown and elsewhere looking for homeless youth, is trying to match the teens with used bikes.

Demand for bikes has spiked since the Metro Transit bus strike began March 4, he said.

"Interest in our bicycle program has been six times greater this month than it was last year at this time," said Tennant, who is based at the American Red Cross chapter at 1201 W. River Parkway.

As part of the Minneapolis Red Cross Street Survival Program, Tennant teaches the youth to repair and maintain the bikes.

"It's not just about providing them transportation, it's about building relationships," he said.

Working for StreetWorks, a collaboration of social services agencies that work with at-risk teens, Tennant passes out survival kits to homeless youth and distributes information about community resources. Along with another outreach worker, he makes frequent stops at alternative schools and Downtown hangouts, such as City Center, 615 Hennepin Ave.

Tennant has also started a food shelf for homeless youth called Groveland Food for Youth at Plymouth Congregational Church, 1900 Nicollet Ave. S.

He said the bus strike has hit the homeless youth community particularly hard and knows teens who have lost their jobs because they were dependent on the buses to get to work.

Tennant has provided more than a dozen homeless teens with bikes after making repairs to them at a homeless youth shelter in St. Paul.

He is looking for more used-bike donations and requests bikes in good working condition.

To donate a bike, contact Tennant at 718-7521 or mattt@mplsredcross.org