Gauthier, left, the residential and clinical director; and
Deb Foster, executive director of Ain Dah Yung Center, show
an artist's drawing of the planned housing complex for young
adults in St. Paul. The Center's reception room is decorated
for Halloween for the 10 children currently housed in ADY's
emergency shelter. (Photo by Lee Egerstrom.)
St. Paul's Ain Dah Yung Center has been helping Native children
and families since 1983 but is now preparing to provide affordable,
transitional housing for young people who normally "fall through
the cracks" of social services and foster care programs.
The Minnesota Housing Finance Agency recently announced it is
providing $9.4 million in housing tax credits to support a joint
Ain Dah Yung and Project for Pride in Living project to build 42
small, apartment-style housing units on University Avenue at Victoria
Street, less than a mile west of the Minnesota State Capitol complex.
The total $11.3 million project will provide housing, cultural
and healing services, various health and living services for homeless
young people ages 18-24 who have moved beyond foster care eligibility,
said Deb Foster (St. Croix Ojibwe), the ADY Center executive director.
While these young people fall through the cracks of other social
services, she said, they must have safe, culturally sensitive training
and counseling services to adjust to life as successful working
Half of the planned development's units will serve long-term
homeless people although they must be in the 18-24 age group for
admittance. Seven other units are designated for use by people with
Gov. Mark Dayton, state housing officials and U.S. Rep. Betty
McCollum made the Oct. 19 announcement at ADY Center's headquarters
at 1089 Portland Ave. in St. Paul, which is also the site of Ain
Dah Yung's emergency center.
Minnesota Housing is providing housing infrastructure bonds
and state appropriations totaling $126 million in the coming year.
This state involvement with federal programs will leverage a projected
$346 million in private and local investments on affordable housing.
Some of the projects statewide are for building and rehabbing single
family homes. Other projects are for low income apartments or special
housing units such as Ain Dah Yung's. Combined, state officials
said the grants, tax credits and private investments will generate
1,823 "affordable housing opportunities" for individuals and families.
For Ain Dah Yung ("Our Home" in Ojibwe), the targeted group
that will be served by the new project represents a disproportionate
slice of the homeless population in the Twin Cities, Foster said.
"In the state of Minnesota, approximately 2 percent of the population
is American Indian. At the same time, an estimated 22 percent of
the homeless youth are American Indians. Once you 'graduate' from
foster care programs, you find yourself put out on the streets,"
Foster spoke about Ain Dah Yung's plans during an interview
at the emergency shelter the day after staff decorated the main
floor of the building for a Halloween party.
"The kids get excited seeing this decorated, and yes, it does
make them feel at home," said Angela Gauthier, a licensed marriage
and family therapist (LMFT) who is the residential and clinical
director for ADY Center and the shelter.
Currently, as is usually the case year around, there are 10
children from ages 5 to 17 at the shelter, Gauthier said. Being
able to care for children as young as 5 gives the shelter the opportunity
to keep siblings together even though they may be homeless, in a
family crisis or involved with juvenile corrections.
Nearby, the Center also operates the Beverly A. Benjamin Youth
Lodge as transitional housing for young people between the ages
of 16 and 21. Its goal is to create community and cultural support
to help the young people to prepare for independent or inter-dependent
living and break away from homelessness and "couch cruising" from
one location to another.
Foster said the University Avenue development is for the next
step up age group. Young people were key participants in the planning,
she said. "They wanted a safe place, they wanted to be on the light
rail system so they have access to education and jobs, they wanted
access to food and entertainment, and they wanted access to medical
and counseling services."
Mike Laverdure (Turtle Mountain Ojibwe), architect and owner
of the First American Design Study in Lake Elmo, has developed plans
that will have a "healing circle" gathering area on all four floors
of the building. Cultural training and supportive gatherings can
occur there for residents and their ADY counselors and staff.
There will also be dental services, a clothing store, food store
and other amenities on site for both convenient living and for workplace
This won't solve American Indian urban problems with homelessness
and family crisis, but it is another step toward filling a void.
The majority of Native Americans from Minnesota's 11 tribes now
live in urban areas and especially in the Twin Cities metro area.
As a result, major foundations, corporations and religious groups
have joined with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, the Mille
Lacs Band of Ojibwe, and an ADY Center's neighbor, House of Hope
Presbyterian Church, in helping fund construction of units in the
new housing complex.
Foster said Mille Lacs officials were "shocked" when ADY pointed
out that Mille Lacs represented the second and third largest tribal
identity for youth needing housing and other family and related
Sometimes a safe haven means getting away from abusive situations.
In many cases, she added, a safe environment is needed to get away
from drug dealers and pimps. Too often with homeless youth, Foster
said, undesirable street elements "become substitute families."
Gauthier said the ADY Center currently has 35 various residential
staff, counselors, therapists, legal advocates and others working
The 2017 ADY Center's annual reports shows the magnitude of
their work which is not exclusive for Native American youth but
accounts for more than 90 percent of their residents and clients.
The emergency center provided short-term shelter, crisis intervention,
access to medical and dental care and other advocacy and counseling
services to 75 youth last year. The Ninijanisag ("Our Children")
program helped 220 young people in prevention and cultural activities
that included monthly family nights.
Counselors with the Street Outreach Program helped 2,212 homeless
and runaway youths who didn't want to enter a shelter, including
1,547 new contacts and 665 young people previously known to ADY.
Mental health case managers worked with Ramsey County colleagues
to help 57 youth and their families with mental health needs, and
ADY's Family Advocacy Program with family preservation and reunification
efforts. There were 41 families with 90 children reached through
ADY legal monitors also worked in collaboration with Southern
Minnesota Legal Services in 2016 to monitor 167 court hearings affecting
240 children to enforce local compliance with the federal Indian
Child Welfare Act.
Put all together, Foster said Ain Dah Yung seeks to bolster
children and young people's self-identity and cultural pride. Often,
she said, "you need to know who you are to get an idea of what you
Learn more about Ain Day Yung at. http://adycenter.org