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Prior Crossing Opens Doors for Youth Experiencing Homelessness


Prior Crossing, Wilder Annual Report
From left: Nona Ferguson, Wilder Vice President of Economic Stability and Aging Services; the Rev. David Van Dyke, Pastor, House of Hope Presbyterian Church; Lee Blons, Executive Director, Beacon
The welcome mat is out at Prior Crossing. Construction wrapped up in late summer on the new, $10.7-million permanent supportive housing development for homeless youth. The first tenants moved into studio apartments in mid-September, and a team from Wilder’s Family Supportive Housing Services was there to greet them.
“These youth overcame many challenges before arriving here,” says Bobby Morrow, a Wilder youth housing case manager. “This is the beginning of the rest of their lives. This is the next step toward building a successful future.”
Young adults who experience homelessness are at a critical time in their lives. They are completing their education, choosing jobs and careers, and building social networks. Often, these youth are resilient and determined. In fact, most of the early tenants at Prior Crossing were employed before they moved in, and some were finishing school and working—all without housing.
At Prior Crossing, youth have a home, stability, and the support of Wilder staff as they adjust to a new environment. The Wilder —two housing case staff managers and an employment specialist—provide guidance as residents identify their own vision for their life and strive to live to their full potential. In addition, youth will have access to a subsidized internship program, where they work with local employers and are paid by Wilder. This service is made possible through Youthprise and the Social Innovation Fund (SIF). 

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Residents live in a gleaming, five-story apartment building at the northeast corner of Prior and University Avenues in Saint Paul’s Midway neighborhood. Out front, Green Line light rail trains roll past on University Avenue at regular intervals. In the back is a courtyard with a basketball hoop, a grill, and patio seating. Inside, visitors check in at a front desk across from a spacious lounge with a kitchenette and a big-screen television. An exercise room, a computer lab, and staff offices complete the ground floor.
The real story is upstairs: 44 fully furnished studio apartments that youth call home as they move past the trauma of experiencing homelessness. The convenient location and new construction “give youth a real sense of hope,” says Tyler Reedy, another Wilder youth housing case manager.

Power of Partnerships

Young people age 24 or younger are the most likely to be homeless, according to data from the 2015 Minnesota Homeless Study, which is coordinated by Wilder Research. Youth on their own age 24 and younger make up 16 percent of the homeless population, the study shows. Prior Crossing is a public-private partnership led by Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative with partners House of Hope Presbyterian Church of Saint Paul and Wilder. “These partners raised awareness and funds to make the vision real,” says Lee Blons, Executive Director of Beacon. “Today is a testament to the power of partnership to end homelessness.”
Nona Ferguson, Vice President of Economic Stability and Aging Services at Wilder, calls Prior Crossing a major commitment that can help build solid futures for the youth in our community. “Because of the collaboration with our partners, more homeless youth have a home to call their own and the support that they need to pursue their life goals,” she says. “This is a major step toward ending the cycle of poverty.”
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This story was featured in our 2016 annual report. Read the report to learn how Wilder strengthens children, families and communities.
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