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Minnesota committee advances homeless youth stipend pilot

(The Center Square) – A new bill introduced in the state legislature would appropriate $6 million over the 2024-2025 biennium and $6 million over the 2026-2027 biennium for direct cash stipends for homeless youth in Hennepin and St. Louis counties.

Rep. Alicia Kozlowski, DFL-Duluth, authored the bill, HF 2008, which has support from 14 Democratic-Farmer-Labor representatives.

The bill defines eligible youth as individuals 18 to 24 years old who don’t have a fixed, regular, adequate nighttime residence. Youths in underserved communities would receive priority.

The Commissioner of Human Services would contract with Youthprise, a nonprofit, to identify eligible homeless youth, provide technical assistance to cash stipend recipients, engage with those recipients to develop youth-designed optional services, evaluate the pilot program, submit annual updates and a final report to the commissioner and collaborate with the counties’ youth leaders to identify service providers for financial coaching, housing navigation, employment, education service sand trauma-informed mentoring and support.

The proposed stipends will not be considered income, assets or personal property. Additionally, the stipends wouldn’t make the youths ineligible for other public-assistance programs.

“With evidence-based practices in mind, HF2008 is really an effort to intentionally focus on specific homeless youth and also give them the handout needed to create stable, successful lives,” Kozlowski said.

The House Human Services Policy Committee approved the bill and referred it to the House Children and Families Finance and Policy Committee.

“Homeless individuals die at a rate three times higher than that of Minnesota’s general population,” said Janae Petersen, a member of the Hennepin County youth advisory board. “That statistic increases when those who are homeless are under the age of 24.”

Twin Cities Opportunity Youth Network at Youthprise Director Kristy Snyder said the stipends would be $1,000 monthly in Hennepin County. Parenting and foster youth would receive $1,200 monthly, according to a Youthprise factsheet about the bill.

A one-time additional $4,000 stipend could help support essential needs and expenses to exit homelessness, the factsheet said. Examples of those expenses are purchase of a car, funds to support a first-time apartment and debts associated with homelessness.

According to the bill, the commissioner would work with the counties and Youthprise to submit a final report on the nonprofit’s findings regarding the project’s efficacy and cost-effectiveness to the leaders of the legislative committees with jurisdiction over homeless youth policy and finance by Jan. 15, 2027.

The factsheet said Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago would partner with Rainbow Research to evaluate the program on measures of housing stability, health and wellbeing.

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