New Rochester Youth Resource Center seeks to connect homeless youth to community resources – Post Bulletin

ROCHESTER — At-risk youth will have a new place with resources and a safe space when homeless thanks to Zumbro Lutheran Church and Lutheran Social Service.

About 40 people showed up for a groundbreaking ceremony for the new youth resource center held on Monday, July 11, 2022, at the center church, which will be open to the public on July 18.

Joyce Walker and Ann Peterson are two church members who attended the ceremony on Monday.

Peterson said she was aware of the issue of youth homelessness in the area from her previous work as a teacher and said she was ‘really excited’ for the new resource center as it fits good for the mission of the church. Likewise, Walker said she is very excited about the project and hopes the center “will be a resource to help (young people) find a place to sleep and meet their basic needs.”

Together, Zumbro Lutheran Church Missions Director Sarah Lichtey and LSS Program Director Tammy Moses wore oversized red scissors to mark the opening of the center, made possible through a collaboration between the church and LSS.

According to Lichtey, the services that already exist in Rochester do not always create safe spaces for young people to enter and find help tailored to their specific needs, which the new resource center hopes to bring to the community.

The initiative to open the youth center to the public took three years, Lichtey said. In 2019, the church saw a need for building renovations, so they launched a fundraising campaign to raise money for much-needed updates.

“We have decided as a congregation to dedicate 10 percent of what we raise to go to missions,” Lichtey said.

The church wanted to build deeper connections with its mission partner, LSS, and began holding conversations between the two parties about unmet community needs in Rochester; the idea they came up with was to find a solution to help address youth homelessness.

Pastor Shelley Cunnginham, center, of Zumbro Lutheran Church, blesses the space during an open house and ribbon cutting Monday, July 11, 2022 in Rochester for the new youth resource center Zumbro Lutheran Church and Lutheran Social Services for Homeless Youth.

Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Moses said the organization has worked for 10 years to address youth homelessness in the community. What she hopes the center offers is a way to improve connections and relationships with young people and connect them to community resources.

According to Moses, the youth resource center will be “the first time we can provide a gathering space (for at-risk youth).” Moses said people attending the open house were already coming up to her and asking if there were any opportunities for community members to volunteer with the resource center.

With the church’s downtown location, the new center’s resources will be very accessible to people, said Charles Baytey, church member and president of Gibson Memorial, which financially supported the renovations. An estimated 60 to 100 young people are homeless in Rochester, so the church wanted to be able to fill that need in the community and support homeless youth, he said.

Seeing that an old youth activity room needed renovation anyway, Baytey said the church decided to convert that space into a new resource center, which cost around $80,000 in renovations.

“The idea kind of grew,” Baytey said. “This concept is now a reality.”

What the youth center offers is a kitchen where young people can learn to cook and make healthy meals. Moses said she thinks this will be one of the most important parts of the center.

There will be church staff who can meet young people, provide counseling and connect them with the right community resources. An in-room pantry will contain things like personal hygiene supplies and food for youngsters to take with them when they leave.

According to Moses, she is very excited about the idea that this resource center will bring to the community and the lives it could change.

From July 18, the center will be open from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday and by appointment on Friday. Tuesdays and Wednesdays will be added to the opening hours of the center from September.

Comments are closed.