Youthlink at Saint Mark’s: Three Perspectives

Takneeia and Margie Johnson, a new connection from Saint Mark's

Margie Johnson
Youthlink at Saint Mark’s: Three Perspectives

YouthLink works with homeless youth, ages 16-23. We are located in downtown Minneapolis, and serve youth across the Twin Cities. YouthLink, recognizes that homelessness is not a final destination. They connect youth to a community of resources and help them discover pathways that get them where they want to go.

Takneeia,Youthlink Connection

Why Youthlink?

When I was 18 years old, I was homeless. I was trying to get into a transitional housing program and the outreach worker I met took me to Youthlink to help me achieve my goals. At Youthlink I was able to use their resources to become a better person. Thanks to Youthlink I was able to achieve my goals. I am now a resident at St. Barnabas Apartments, I finished high school and started attending Minneapolis Community and Technical College, and I work as a bank teller at Wells Fargo.

Why Did I Consent to a Connector From Saint Mark’s?

This connectors program is a new idea that Youthlink is trying to see how this could help the youth make good connections with people and be able to build on those to connections to help achieve their goals. This is a guinea pig stage so we were assigned to our connectors. If given the chance I would have picked Mrs. Margaret. Even though we just started this program together I’m glad I’m able to build this relationship with her. This was a great opportunity for the both of us and I’m happy I was able to work with such a wonderful woman.

What Are My Two Year Goals?

I want to keep working at Wells Fargo and see where it takes me. I want continue my education at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College and finish my generals and obtain my AA Degree. If I finish my generals I want to start a career in Radiology. I’m hoping that soon I will achieve my driver’s license. I want to start saving money and working to a better future for myself.

Margie, Connector

Why Youthlink Connector’s Program?

Fr. Paul is advocating an outreach partnering with Youthlink. This is an organization that works with homeless teens 18 – 24 as a drop-in center downtown Minneapolis with three residences for these young people as there is space and the youth are ready for this commitment. Saint Mark’s and the diocese is entering a partnership whereby a youth is connected with a member of the Church. I agreed to the 6 hour training to mentor plus meeting with an assigned youth to connect and see how the program can best succeed. Only six youth are now in this Connection Program.

What are the challenges?

Where do I start? I know the risks of mentoring. My three mentees from the ECS Covenants Program with Saint Mark’s (started 15 years ago) has expanded to 14 people including children and a dear grandchild. I tend to follow up more with the “children” ranging in age from 19 to 10 months.

With Takneeia, she has challenged me perhaps more than I have challenged her, although entering this program is quite a risk for her. At 22, Takneeia is successfully in school, in a good housing plan at St. Barnabas Apts. (7th St. and 9th Ave,), newly employed and with bike she qualified for from Full Cycle! So I did get back on my 36 year old Schwinn and am learning to walk and bike downtown Minneapolis to Barnabas. Today we will walk and bike together with a picnic lunch to the Mississippi bike trail.

We both are learning to share moments together, texts to write, and introductions to people we each know.

How can Saint Mark’s help you?

Takneeia and I joined Fr. Paul at Dunn Brothers for “coffee”. It was good for him to meet Saint Mark’s first connection with Youthlink. As a “connector” it will be great to feel the wings of Fr. Paul, Saint Markans, as well as diocesan members around our shoulders. We need your encouragement and attention to future opportunities with Youthlink. The pantry at Barnabas, started and run by Takneeia, is especially in need of detergent, toothpaste, and bath towels. Your consideration and prayers would be appreciated. Thank you, Margie Johnson.

Fr. Paul, Initiator

How did you get involved with Youthlink?

I was first introduced to YouthLink last fall by one of our ECMN staff members who thought we might make good partners in mission among the downtown homeless youth. I was welcomed to YouthLink for a tour and brief explanation of the program and, at that time, was introduced to the early concept of the 'Connectors' program, which primarily works with those YouthLink participants who are in the process of graduating out of YouthLinks direct services and into longer-term independent housing, education, and early career development programs. As this can be a very tender phase in the developmental process, the 'Connectors' program aims to connect YouthLink graduates with community 'Connectors' for on-going support, encouragement, networking, and, as needed, advice and guidance. Having heard about the vitality and success of similar programs around the country, it seems like the right program to support.

Why should Saint Mark’s partner with Youthlink?

First and foremost, Saint Mark’s should partner with YouthLink because we are downtown neighbors and we both care about the quality of life in this community. Secondly, we both recognize and value the dignity of every person.
Thirdly, both Saint Mark’s and YouthLinks practice comprehensive care for the whole person -- body, mind, and spirit!
And, lastly, we both believe that with the necessary support and resources, every person can live into the dream they have for themselves and can take their proper place in the creation and care of this community.

How would you like to see Saint Markans get involved with this new partnership?

Following the pilot phase of the new 'Connectors' program, I would like to see every able, willing, and available Saint Markan apply for consideration as a ‘Connector’ for the 2015-2016 academic year—giving of their time, energy, and talent to support a young person who is moving from homelessness into long-term stability and self-sufficiency and who could use a little encouragement and guidance along the way. It's a very reasonable commitment for the right group of people and the overall community impact is immeasurable!