Helping homeless teens ‘reclaim their future'

Duluth’s Life House offsets youth homelessness and addiction through key program ‘lifelines’

For some more than others, growing up can be an intimidating and confusing journey.

Far beyond the transition from video games and dolls to voting and driving, over 100 youth in Duluth, Minnesota grapple with homelessness every day.

Life House is there to help those in the urban and surrounding area whose growing pains are more severe than others.

“We have no residency requirements, so we will help anyone who shows up at our door,” says Margie Nelson, community engagement director at Life House.

Life House has five key programs to help youth get back on their feet or escape unsafe situations.

Between housing and a drop-in center, as well as its education and employment workshops, Life House works to meet the basic needs of homeless youth. Most recently, Life House developed The Loft shelter, which provides short-term, emergency housing for teens aged 15 to 19.

“The Loft was created two years ago to address the specific need of this young adult age group,” says Nelson. “We found that a lot of our teenagers we were helping had been to other shelters as babies.”

She adds: “It was really traumatic for them to be going back to a shelter again.”

As for the new program, the proof is in the pudding. Although teens can spend up to 90 days in The Loft getting back on their feet, Nelson says most spend only just over a month on average, where they are offered mental health counselling and wellness programs.

“The most important focus of The Loft program is getting youth in a safe and stable place,” says Nelson. “The rest can come after, when we work with them to establish next steps.”

As part of Enbridge’s commitment to improving the quality of life in areas near our operations, we recently gave two donations to Life House totaling over $10,550. These funds support the overall operations of the 10-bed Loft shelter.

Although Life House seems like a one-stop-shop refuge, the organization also partners with like-minded organizations to help ensure success when re-entering the real world.

And once they do leave the caring hands of Life House, Nelson says it’s not uncommon to see them again—but this time as a visitor.

“We do have quite a few success stories,” says Nelson. “It’s up to them, but there are those who come back to check in and let us know how they’re doing.”

As Duluth faces a disproportionately high homeless population in Minnesota, The Loft shelter provides safe shelter, nutritious food, and clothing in a very real time of need.

Nelson hopes even just the knowledge that Life House is an option helps youth to guide themselves to a more stable future.

“In the streets, it’s a very transactional relationship. We’re just here to provide support unconditionally.”