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Volunteer sorts donations at youth food shelf

Now open: Youth-only food shelves in Ramsey County

Added on Friday, June 14, 2013

If an 18-year-old homeless kid walks into the average food shelf with no I.D. or permanent address, he’ll likely walk out empty-handed. Proof of self and residence are almost always required. Problem is, most homeless youth have neither.

The solution: youth-only food shelves. The Twin Cities Salvation Army opened three of them in June 2013 through a partnership with StreetWorks Collaborative, a youth outreach network. They’re located inside existing Salvation Army food shelves in Ramsey County – two in St. Paul, one in Maplewood. StreetWorks staff distribute the food and offer referrals, while The Salvation Army provides the food and space.

The food shelves provide nonperishable foods that are easy to open and prepare, such as microwaveable one-person meals. Baby food is offered, too.

“Our new youth-only food shelves make it simple for homeless youth to get the food they need,” said Major Jeff Strickler, Twin Cities Salvation Army commander.

Most homeless youth are single mothers or “couch hoppers” who bounce from one friend’s home to the next.

An 18-year-old male stopped by one of the new food shelves the first week it opened. He’d recently fled a child abuse situation.

“He’s poor and uses extreme couponing to buy food at grocery stores, but still must use food shelves 75 percent of the time,” said Salvation Army caseworker Jennifer Xiong, adding that the young man is working to become self-sufficient as a self-employed artist.

Without food, homeless youth can be exploited in terrible ways: A recent survey by Covenant House, a national homeless youth nonprofit, and Fordham University in New York found that nearly one in four homeless youth have engaged in survival sex – trading a sex act to meet a basic need such as food or shelter.

Filling the void

Until the new youth-only food shelves opened, only one existed in Ramsey County. Others are found west of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, St. Louis Park, Brooklyn Center, and Golden Valley. All are operated by StreetWorks.

“We’re really excited to have these food shelves in St. Paul – for a long time we had to shuttle (St. Paul) youth to Minneapolis (food shelves),” said Katie Kennedy, a StreetWorks outreach worker.

Kennedy said the busiest Twin Cities youth-only food shelf is in Minneapolis, serving an average of five to 10 people per day. The new Salvation Army locations have been serving up to five people per day.

“Those numbers are expected to rise as word gets out,” Strickler said. “The more youth we can reach, the more lives we can help put back on track. We thank StreetWorks for this important partnership.”

The new food shelves are open 3–5 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 foods that are easy to open and prepare, such as microwaveable one-person meals, are encouraged at each youth-only food shelf.

The food shelves are an expansion of the Twin Cities Salvation Army’s youth outreach efforts in St. Paul, where in June 2012 it opened an 11-bed shelter for youth ages 18–21.