Face to Face’s homeless shelter marks 25 years

Continues work to curb youth homelessness


For Face to Face, a St. Paul nonprofit focused on supporting youth — especially those facing homelessness — a 25th anniversary isn’t a celebration, but rather an acknowledgement of the resiliency of young people and the honor to serve them, said the organization’s executive director, Hanna Getachew-Kreusser

The group’s youth shelter, SafeZone, is marking a quarter century of serving kids this month with an Aug. 15 event from 1 to 5 p.m. at Face to Face’s clinic at 1165 Arcade St. It will include performances by youth artists who participated in SafeZone’s recording arts program and remarks from Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan.

The downtown St. Paul shelter is the only daily walk-in center for homeless youth in Ramsey County. It offers hot meals, showers, clothing, personal care items, laundry services and transportation assistance. It also connects youth with Face to Face’s services, which include mental health counseling, reproduction health support, physicals, shots, education support, employment help and housing assistance. 


Rising need

Face to Face was established in 1972 with the opening of its Arcade Street walk-in clinic. The shelter opened in 1994 after the state and county reached out to Face to Face to establish a center for youth. 

Despite the organization and the shelter’s longevity, keeping up with rising rates of homelessness and finding funding are always worries, said Getachew-Kreusser.

According to a 2018 Wilder Research Minnesota Homeless Study, the percentage of people experiencing homelessness in the state has increased 10% since the organization’s last study, which took place in 2015. The study attributes a shortage of affordable housing as one of the main reasons for the increase.

The study found the proportion of people age 24 and younger experiencing homelessness was similar to 2015, meaning a jump in the youth population contributed to the overall increase. In all, young people continued to make up 46% of the homeless population in the state.

Getachew-Kreusser said her organization has personally seen that increase in youth needing its services. She said at SafeZone, the number of young people seeking help each month has risen from 70 to about 100, with the number of first-time youth seeking help rising as well. 

The increase of people in need means financial strain.

United Way, an organization that raises funds for social organizations, used to be a major funder of Face to Face, but its support has waned and Getachew-Kreusser said finding cash can now be extra challenging. 

Programs are funded through a variety of public and private sources. For example, Face to Face’s recording arts program, which started a year ago, is funded by the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council.


Getting to the root

Beyond the support services offered, Getachew-Kreusser said the another goal of her organization is to divert and intersect with youth who are at risk for homelessness and to find ways to end homelessness.

“While the fact that we’ve been able to be in this community and be a safety net to youth is an honor and privilege, we want to stop doing this work,” she said, pointing out that going out of business due to a lack of homelessness would be a good thing. “I start with a sad feeling. The fact that we exist, we need to think about that.”

Face to Face works with the city, county and state in a number of ways, specifically with the county attorney’s office and public health programs, to connect with at-risk youth. Getachew-Kreusser said she wanted to be clear that Face to Face isn’t just for youth, but also serves as a resource for parents, families and caretakers of youth.

“Young people don’t exist in a vacuum,” she said.

Another goal is to address the disparities that lead youth, largely young people of color, to become homeless.

Much of that work is being led by the organization’s Youth Advisory Council, which not only helps guide policies and services at Face to Face, but is also working to research and question the barriers that youth face and how to change systems to end homelessness. 

Getachew-Kreusser said part of the council will meet with the governor’s office soon to talk about their work and to partner with the state to find solutions.

As the organization continues its work, Getachew-Kreusser said she wants the upcoming anniversary event to serve as a way to get the word out about the organization. “We want the community to get to know us, and get to know the young people, to help support them.”

For community members who would like to get involved or support Face to Face, Julia O’Brien, its director of development, said there are many ways to help. 

Community members are welcome to volunteer their time by preparing meals or doing other tasks at centers. Face to Face also accepts donations of money, food, clothing and personal care items. Youth in the community can also help guide programming at Face to Face, and tackle youth homelessness, by volunteering their time on the Youth Advisory Council. More information can be found at www.face2face.org.

Those seeking help from Face to Face can call 651-224-9644, stop at the Arcade Street clinic or go to the SafeZone shelter, 130 E. Seventh St. SafeZone is open Monday through Friday, 1 to 8 p.m.


–Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet
Comment Here