County HRA approves funding for HOPE Place

Contributing Writer

A new transitional housing program for homeless youth has received a $100,000 boost from the Anoka County Housing and Redevelopment Authority.

The HRA, which comprises the seven members of the Anoka County Board, unanimously approved the allocation of federal Community Development Block Grant dollars.

Anoka-based HOPE 4 Youth opened HOPE Place, a transitional housing facility for young people ages 18-25, late last year in a vacant building on Coon Rapids Boulevard in Coon Rapids that had formerly housed a dance studio and day care center.

This was HOPE 4 Youth’s first application for Community Development Block Grant grant dollars, according to Karen Skepper, HRA executive director.

“It is a strong application,” Skepper said.

The dollars were available because the county received more money, some $250,000, from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development than had been anticipated when the HRA approved the annual round of block grant funding earlier this year, she said.

“We were told to expect significant cuts from last year, but they did not happen,” Skepper said.

According to Skepper, HOPE 4 Youth will use the funds to complete exterior improvements, including landscaping, parking lot repairs and a sports court.

In addition, an estimated $33,450 of the $100,000 will be earmarked for the purchase of a van to transport youth living at HOPE Place to jobs, the county workforce center and medical appointments.

HOPE 4 Youth is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that serves homeless youth by meeting basic needs as well as helping them find jobs, finish school, secure housing and access on-site health and wellness services through a drop-in center in Anoka, which is open Monday through Friday, 2-7 p.m.

The agency has expanded its work by purchasing the Coon Rapids Boulevard property in the Northtown area and renovating the building to provide beds for 12 homeless youth who will stay an average of 12 to 24 months “while they work to leave their status of homeless in the past and have a brighter future in place, one where they are independent, healthy, employed, housed adults,” said Kristin VanHeel, HOPE 4 Youth marketing and communications coordinator in a press release announcing a community opening house and ribbon-cutting for HOPE Place, which took place Dec. 5, 2016.

Hope 4 Youth has contracted with two organizations to help run HOPE Place and its programs.

CommonBond manages the property and building, while YouthLink provides an onsite case manager to help the youth living at HOPE Place work through their daily needs.

In addition, the Anoka County Workforce Center has a staff member on-site at HOPE Place two half days a week to work on career-building for the residents.