10 Ways in 10 Days Nine: Invest in services for homeless youth

Today is Way Nine of Invest in Minnesota’s 10 Ways in 10 Days campaign.

It profiles Erich Lutz, who sees the urgency of investing in our youth every day:

Erich Lutz has worked with youth experiencing homelessness in Duluth for 13 years.

The young people walking through his doors at Life House don’t have any other options.

“Many come from unsafe homes and face circumstances beyond their control,” he says. “They are forced to grow up without anyone to show them how.”

Youth come to Life House’s drop-in center simply to survive — they need shelter, food and clean clothes. Along with those necessities, they also get encouragement, learn to trust and begin to heal.

“They have experienced trauma,” Erich says. “Adults in their lives have taken advantage of them or abandoned them. We teach them a lot of things: how to balance a checkbook, do laundry and make doctor’s appointments. But most importantly, we teach them that they’re worth something and that someone cares enough to be there even if they make a mistake.”

Erich has seen youth achieve great things after receiving help. One former resident was kicked out of her home by her abusive stepfather and mentally ill mother. She crashed on couches and under bridges until she found Life House.

She recalls, “I knew it was a safe place where I could get help without fearing judgment. I was ashamed of what I’d done to survive, but Life House helped me pick up the pieces. With their help, I enrolled in college, got a job and established permanent housing.”

Today she is leading a healthy, happy life and has dedicated her career to helping youth with similar experiences.

According to Wilder Research’s 2012 Minnesota Homeless Study, at least 1,151 unaccompanied youth were homeless in Minnesota on a single night. But state investments in services like those provided by Life House will make sure youth experiencing homelessness get the help they need to lead healthy, happy lives and contribute to their communities.

The 10 Ways in 10 Days campaign features people from around the state who have first-hand experience with critical state services – and know their value. The campaign highlights how fairly raised revenue and state investments benefit all Minnesotans and why it’s time for policymakers to invest in prosperity for all.

-Leah Gardner

About Leah Gardner

Leah Gardner was the Minnesota Budget Project's outreach coordinator.
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