The Intersection of Gun Violence and Youth Homelessness

Like every corner of our country today, from shopping malls and night clubs to elementary schools and churches, our neighborhood in North Minneapolis has not been immune from the crisis of ongoing gun violence.

Last month multiple gun shots rang out on our street, very close to the Minneapolis shelter. No one was physically hurt, but the youth and our staff definitely had their nerves rattled. News of the tragic mass casualty shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde were still timely topics of conversation and heightened the anxious tension so many of us are experiencing.  [insert Read More button]

For the youth at Avenues this is unlikely the first or last time they will hear such gun shots. It is conservatively estimated that 45% of youth experiencing homelessness will also experience direct or indirect gun violence.  The shootings near Avenues also were not an anomaly warranting Breaking News coverage on local or national news networks. Sadly, neighborhoods like ours in North Minneapolis have a long history of such violence due in no small part to conditions of economic adversity, higher eviction rates, underfunding of its schools and community spaces, and institutionalized prejudices within the criminal justice system.

The toll this can take on one’s psyche is hard to measure, but the trauma is real. Avenues takes a trauma-informed approach to our work with these young adults, recognizing that the conditions that led them to experiencing homelessness and homelessness in and of itself are traumatic and impact their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. In addition to providing weekly access to trained therapists, the culture of Avenues emphasizes building stability, trust-based relationships, and opportunities for self-determination.

We are fortunate to have the support of incredible community partners like Mom’s Demand Action. Within 48 hours of the shootings 30 moms (and some of their little ones) descended on Avenues to plant flowers, mow lawns, pick up trash, and sweep sidewalks. The impact is not only practical (research shows neighborhood beautification is crime preventative) as well as a powerful statement of community resolve. (See the news coverage on Fox 9!)

At Avenues we are so proud of the youth we partner with, and the number one adjective used to describe them is resilient. To be resilient is to have faced an adversity and quickly recover. This word also aptly describes our neighborhood. We have Northside pride and appreciate all of you for standing with us during not only the successes, but also the challenges.