Simpson Welcome Home 39 Young Adults to 66 WestPosted on August 20th, 2017
Laughter. Smiles. Happy tears It’s becoming a familiar scene at 66 West on Move-In Day. Throughout the summer, 39 young adults will be moving into the newly finished apartment building. But it’s more than just a new apartment for these young people. For almost all of the new residents, it’s the first time having a key that’s theirs.
66 West isn’t your average apartment building. It’s permanent supportive housing for youth and young adults who have experienced homelessness. 66 West is a partnership of Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative and Simpson Housing Services. Beacon owns the building and is responsible for operations. Simpson provides support services for the residents. Cara Melvin, Youth Housing Program Manager at Simpson, says moving the youth into their apartments is exciting and overwhelming. It’s both the culmination of years of planning and a new beginning for each resident. “Lots of squeals and tears and excitement. The youth are so excited to have a safe, stable home,” Cara says.
In Minnesota, young people age 16-24 are a growing population in the homeless community. The 2015 Wilder Research Survey indicates young people under the age of 24 are the most likely to be homeless. At 66 West, Simpson has adapted current service models to better meet the needs of homeless youth. Wendy Wiegmann, Director of Programs, says this is a natural extension of the Simpson’s services.
“For many years we have been developing our capacity to serve young adults. We’re excited to be working with the residents of 66 West, a group of young people who have so much potential not only for themselves, but for the community,” Wendy says.
Each 66 West resident will work with one of four Youth Advocates to set individual goals around education, employment, wellness, and maintaining their housing stability.
But the priority now, is getting youth to feel at home in the building. “When each youth arrives, they get to pick a plant to keep in their apartment and a piece of art to hang on their walls. We want them to feel at home, to make the place theirs,” Cara says. “Almost every youth has snapped a selfie in their new apartment which is nice to see. They’re excited and the space is so beautiful.”
Members of the Edina Community have donated household items for the youth to use, from bedding to pots and pans. Some of the artwork residents can select for their apartments was even donated by the Art 4 Shelter Committee.
Another important focus of programming at 66 West will be leadership and community engagement. Forming community and feeling a sense of belonging are essential and staff are already working to help the youth form their own community.
“Advocates are hosting a weekly breakfast for youth to grab some food, get to know their neighbors. But once all the youth are moved in, we’ll be asking youth what they’d like to see on-site or what they’d like to do together. We want this to be a youth-driven community,” Cara says.
The community at 66 West is already forming. Residents are chatting in the halls about going to the grocery store together and are already exploring the Southdale area of Edina, getting to know their new neighborhood. We welcome the residents of 66 West home and we look forward to watching them on their journey to stability.