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Suppressed Voices in Minnesota’s Youth Homelessness Advocacy

What is equity without the voices of those being served? Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless, board members, and other stakeholders rejected data from Twin Cities youth advocate, Khalique Rogers… ​​Why?

Khalique Rogers, 25, has an impactful story. One that many young people who’ve grown through financial hardship or lack of resources can relate to. He was fortunate to turn his life around through mentorship, community support, and primarily at the hand of opportunity. Homelessness was one of his hardships as a young person, and this has led him to doing internal investigations and creating his own outcomes–in which he attempts to share with the “big dogs–” in other words, the organizations that receive funding to address these social issues. 

“The Minnesota Coalition for Homelessness has an annual conference in which I pursued to share my supported data that offers a direct solution–that’s been a direct solution. A solution that rarely gets mentioned because in the face of funding the conservations exclude the people that are directly impacted by where, and how, money is allocated…” 

Khalique is working with a variety of partnerships in the approach to youth homelessness reduction, but has experienced some pushback. His data comes from the Twin Cities’ youth homeless population themselves, who say they don’t feel heard and lack sustainable resources. 

“Permanent affordable housing. Post-shelter support. Personalized resources. These are the things we need to show our young people out here on these streets that they matter. Many of us care about them. How can we show them we care if they aren’t being heard in their needs, and if their own communities can’t pass the message because organizations have settled on their idea of progress from an observational standpoint versus a real lived experience?”

The core of Rogers’ data has Education as a focal point. Not the traditional method most of us experienced, but a more personalized approach found in alternative learning facilities such as homeschooling, charter schools, etc. Here is a link of conducted research published by the Center for Policy Design around personalized learning and its increase in interest. According to Rogers, thousands of Minnesotan youth are turning to this kind of learning. Including himself.

Rogers also says the distrust experienced by many POC–especially vulnerable POC like the homeless population, can make it hard for them to open up and seek the help they need without having a pre-developed connection to those inquiring on their personal matters. Healthy relationships with authority roles in communities of color can be vital to trust building and ensuing mentorship. 

“A high percentage of young people enrolled in schools that offer personalized learning methods often come from a common background of hardship that has led them to these kinds of programs. Programs that hold the capacity to love, guide and support them as individuals…” 

Teachers in public education, especially at middle and high school level, aren’t structurally granted time to allocate towards fostering meaningful connections with students. In turn, the teachers lack understanding of their students’ lives, which makes offering resources for preventative measures, if needed, quite hard. This also means that the disparity between those who have resources and loving support figures at home versus those that don’t, widens. 

Rogers feels the approach to education could be a major solution to the Twin Cities’ young homeless population, as many young people at these alternative schools have data to support that they are positively impacted in these environments. Why? 

Well, I’ve experienced first hand how lack of healthy authority roles impact young communities of color. No matter how hard or low someone may fall, if they have someone who hears them, acknowledges them, supports them, believes in them, encourages them… Magic happens. The same way it did for me, for Khalique Rogers, and for other young POC that are fortunate enough to have these experiences. 

As to why some of these homeless advocate organizations turned down Khalique Rogers’ request to share his research, well, that still remains a question. Now Khalique has a question… 

“How can we hold these spaces to their commitment”

If you’d like to reach out to Khalique and dive deeper into his work, you can click here. Minnesota youth advocacy organization, YouthPrise, is supporting the work of his collaborative student-led group, United for Action. 

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