Updated: 03/18/2013 7:29 AM KSTP.com By: Katherine Johnson
The Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce has awarded YouthLink with the "nonprofit of the Year" award for 2013.
"When you have no where to go and you walk the skyways, people walk by you like you don't exist," said 19-year-old, Christopher. He is one of more than 2,000 homeless youth the nonprofit YouthLink provides a single bus token for every day.
"Because there are not enough shelter beds for the young people that we serve, some of them are just riding the buses as long as they can," said Marney Thomas with the nonprofit.
"You just hop the bus and ride because it's something to do," said Christopher.
The Wilder Research annual homeless study found a 6 percent increase in homelessness in Minnesota this year. Of those surveyed in the metro, 46 percent were under 21 years old - and that's just counting those in shelters.
"We know that we're not finding everyone," said Thomas. "We're not finding people who are sleeping in parks, on the street..."
"It's lonely," said Christopher. "It's tough."
In the past year, the number of people depending on the non-profit for help has doubled. YouthLink spends $80,000 to $100,000 a year solely on bus tokens.
"We have to shut our doors because we're closing and we know that there is young people that don't have any place to go and the only thing we can do is give them a hat and gloves and a token, that's really hard for staff," said Thomas.
Christopher is close to leasing an apartment because of the nonprofit. He got his GED and wants to go to college to study political science and become an advocate for other homeless youth.
"I feel privileged that we get to help - that we get to see them get out of the situation," said Thomas.
"I want people to realize you can start from the bottom and you can become someone great," said Christopher.
A $10 donation to YouthLink buys 13 bus tokens. Donations can be made here.