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Detroit Lakes battles high rate of homeless youth

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DETROIT LAKES, Minn. — On any given night, more than 100 students in the Detroit Lakes School District don't know where they'll be going to bed or if they even have a place to sleep.

“Most people in Minnesota think of a homeless person as a single adult male, probably chronic alcoholic,” says Liz Kuoppala with Mahube-Otwa Community Action. “That’s typical, because that’s what the movies show, and that’s where I think most people learn about homelessness.”

Becker County has high rates of youth homelessness.

“Seventy percent of them across the state have come from some kind of institutional care, foster care, the corrections system. We don’t do a good job as a state when someone gets into that kind of care to take care of them when they leave,” says Kuoppala.

Detroit Lakes Public Schools identified 109 students as homeless last year.

The district expects to see similar numbers this year.

“Studies have shown that children who have adult mentors and positive influences in their lives have much more long-term success with education, their jobs, keeping steady employment, housing as well,” says Anna Sellin with the Lake Crisis Center.

Some of the main contributors to youth homelessness is a lack of transitional and affordable housing.

Now, organizations are looking for solutions.

"We're trying to identify every single homeless teenager we know — young person, young adult — figure out how do we create a list and then how do we work with all of our different partners to make sure resources are aimed at those folks,” says Kuoppala.

On Sunday, several organizations are coming together to talk about how to put every child in a home.

Sunday, the Community Forum, sponsored by th Congregational United Church of Christ,  will feature four speakers from organizations in Becker County to discuss ways the community can get involved and help solve the problem.

The forum will be held at Ecumen assisted living facility, in Detroit Lakes.

It will be open to the public.

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