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New Center for Changing Lives for Youth to Open in Duluth

Grand Opening Celebration and Community Open Houses scheduled in June

Landscaping, colorful planter boxes, office furniture assembly and other final touches are underway at the new Center for Changing Lives in Duluth scheduled to open the week of June 19.  A Grand Opening celebration for supporters, funders and staff will be held on Thursday, June 8, followed by open houses for the general community on June 11 and 12.   

“We’re so excited!” said Jodi Harpstead, CEO for Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota. “The dream for this new center, dedicated to ending youth homelessness, was conceived nine years ago and we are thrilled to see it all come together so beautifully.”

Harpstead said that the new center at 1422 East Superior Street in Duluth is in an ideal location for youth -- near downtown and on a bus line.  It’s also close to a pharmacy, grocery store and employment opportunities.  

The 27,000 square foot center has three levels and include services, meeting spaces and housing.  On the first floor, a wide variety of community initiatives operate out of the center,  including a Truancy Action Project, Teen Health Center and life skills education for youth aging out of foster care. The second floor features 10 apartments for youth ages 18 to 23 that can provide assistance with employment and connections to community resources. The third floor houses the Renaissance transitional housing program that provides transitional housing for up to 18 months for youth ages 16 to 21 and a community living space, as well as service space for a new Host Homes initiative that places youth with families in the communities that have space in their homes and a heart for youth.    

“While we have short- and long-term housing here at the center, much of our work occurs out in the community to catch kids early who are in a crisis,” Harpstead explained. “We work with over 880 youth through a wide variety of community initiatives --- through schools, our teen health center, street outreach work, host homes, emergency shelter and Safe Place locations. Through all of our services, we want youth to avoid spending even one night without a safe place by helping them find stable housing, learn life skills, succeed in school, gain employment, and reunite with their families when that is possible.”

Services include:

Teen Health Center
- Free, walk-in preventative care to youth ages 13 to 24 that includes health screenings and wellness services.

Runaway and Homeless Youth Program
- Guides youth to safe housing and family reunification when possible.

Truancy Action Project
- LSS works over 300 kids in three local schools to catch them early, when they show signs of missing or skipping school, to resolve issues and help them be successful in school and at home.  

Street Outreach
- LSS goes where youth are to prevent even one night without a safe place to stay by providing emotional support, connection to community resources and help returning home when possible.

Oh No! 18 (O.N.E)
- A major reason for youth experiencing homelessness is that they don’t have support they need to live on their own after they age out of foster care. We work with these youth to teach life skills -- such as job hunting, budgeting and being a good renter -- so that they can transition successfully to adulthood.  

Together for Youth
- LSS offers a welcoming, supportive and safe place for LGBTQ youth to talk about their own experiences and find resources they need. In Minnesota, an estimated 18% of the homeless youth population identifies as LGBTQ youth -- likely a low estimate. One reason why LGBTQ youth are homeless is because they have come out to their parents and been kicked out. 

Safe Place
- Through LSS, Duluth is the first community in Minnesota to offer Safe Place -- a rapid-response national outreach program to provide immediate support to youth in a crisis. LSS partners with libraries, fire stations, bus transit and other community organizations that display big yellow Safe Place signs in their window to signal to youth that they are a safe place where they can get immediate help.  

Renaissance Transitional Housing
- Renaissance provides housing up to 18 months, case management and life skills to youth experiencing homelessness to ensure their safety, stability and long-term success. 

Supportive Apartments
- There are 10 apartments paired with supportive services to ensure youth are successful. These apartments are considered affordable housing, meaning that youth pay 30% of what they earn on housing. Supplemental funding for housing is provided by the Duluth Housing and Redevelopment Authority through HUD Section 8 vouchers. 

Host Homes
- This is a new strategy LSS is using to help end youth homelessness in Duluth. LSS partners with families in the community who have an empty bedroom in their homes and want to help youth who don’t have a safe place to stay.

Wilder Research, an organization that conducts a study on homelessness in Minnesota every three years, estimates that there are 120 youth without a safe place to stay on any given night in Duluth. Some youth age out of foster care and have no support, parents may not have stable housing themselves, some families have mental health and chemical dependency issues, there may be abuse or neglect and some youth are kicked out because their kids have come out to them as LGBTQ.  

The common thread is that youth don’t have a stable adult in their lives that they can count on, Harpstead said. The average age of youth on their own is 16 and 40% are in Greater Minnesota.

“Through our housing initiatives, community outreach work and involvement by community members, we believe we can solve this issue,” Harpstead said. “That’s what this project is all about.”

The $9.1 million project was made possible through generous support from funders and donors that includes $4.2 million from Minnesota Housing -- Housing Infrastructure Bonds, $400,000 from federal grants allocated through the City of Duluth, and $4.5 million from foundations, businesses, churches and individual contributors.

Community members are invited to attend public open houses on June 11 from 2-4 p.m. and June 12 from 5-7 p.m.  
There are also 25 runners participating in Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth on June 17 to help raise sustaining funds for the new center.  The community can help by visiting

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota in Duluth traces its 100-year history to 1916 when caring Swedish Lutherans opened the Bethany Children’s Home to provide support, shelter and care for children and youth. Today, the organization serves over 880 youth annually in Greater Duluth. For more information about the Center for Changing Lives, visit

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, based in St. Paul, began in 1865 when a Lutheran pastor and his congregation opened an orphanage for children near Red Wing in southeastern Minnesota. Today, with 2,300 employees and 8,000 volunteers, Lutheran Social Service helps one in 65 Minnesotans through services that inspire hope, change lives and build community. Statewide, the organization seeks to foster safe and supportive homes for children, restore health and wellness in families, empower people with disabilities to live the lives they imagine, and promote health, independence and quality of life for older adults. For comprehensive information about the work of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, visit