Shelter and Services Now in Palm of (Homeless) Youths’ Hands
Youth Services Network Launches YSNMN.org, Web Application that Connects
Homeless Youth to Shelter Beds and Critical Services
This is a dilemma faced by many Twin Cities youth experiencing homelessness every day — a youth does not have a stable place to call home and is searching for a safe bed. The youth calls shelter after shelter to no avail. They’re all full. The next day is the same: call after call, using up precious phone minutes.
But what if there was an easier way to connect these homeless youth to the vital resources they need, like shelter, outreach workers, drop-in resource centers and food? What if homeless youth could call an outreach worker directly or view shelter bed availability in real-time?
Enter YSNMN.org. The Youth Services Network (YSN), a collaboration of 12 nonprofit organizations supporting homeless youth in the Twin Cities, has developed a web-based application to simplify how homeless youth and their advocates search for shelter beds and other supports.
YSNMN.org shows all the youth-specific shelters in the Twin Cities – where beds are available, how to call the shelter and the bus route to take to get to the shelter via geo-location functionality. Youth may sign up to receive text or email notification when a bed becomes available, saving them from having to make the same repeated queries.
In addition to shelter bed availability, the following information is available through YSNMN.org:
Locations and hours of drop-in centers where youth may connect with resources and supports.
Access to the street and school outreach workers in each county by just clicking on the phone number provided for the workers on call at that time.
Location and hours of other critical services, including teen clinics and youth food shelves.
“Quick access to support is everything for homeless youth,” according to Deborah Loon, executive director at Avenues for Homeless Youth. “The harsh reality for youth on the streets is that they will be
approached within 48 hours by someone seeking to exploit them. The YSN web application fills a big void in our network. It uses youth-friendly applications to give them much faster access to life-saving supports.”
Daniel Pfarr, executive director of The Bridge for Youth, added that the site is designed to help the broader community better support youth. “We expect staff and volunteers throughout the community to use YSNMN.org to connect homeless youth with information and services,” said Pfarr. “Everyone supporting these young people now will have critical information at their fingertips through their mobile devices and computers. This includes outreach workers, drop-in center workers, librarians, school counselors and more. Anybody looking to help a young person get connected to supports will be able to visit the site.”
The site will provide data YSN and policymakers need to gauge the size of the homeless youth problem and make decisions about where to expand services. As this application was built, YSN wanted the ability to track null searches (no beds) to keep count of youth turned away. These statistics will help the organizations better support the population of youth experience housing instability.
YSNMN.ORG is a project of the Youth Services Network (YSN) whose members include: Ain Dah Yung Center, Avenues for Homeless Youth, The Bridge for Youth, Catholic Charities Hope Street, Face to Face, Hope 4 Youth, Lutheran Social Services, Oasis for Youth, Salvation Army Booth Brown House, The Streetworks Collaborative, Teens Alone, YMCA Youth Intervention Services and YouthLink.
Development of YSNMN.org has been funded by a grant from Target. Additional funding is sought to support ongoing IT maintenance. The app can be found at Apple or Google Play stores for free download. For more information, visit www.ysnmn.org.
Daniel Pfarr, The Bridge for Youth, firstname.lastname@example.org, 612-230-6659 (office) or 763-232-2253 (mobile).
Deborah Loon, Avenues for Homeless Youth, email@example.com, 612-844-2002 (office) or 612-801-1935 (mobile).