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Evergreen Campaign aims to bolster shelter's youth work

In an effort to make up for a loss in federal aid, Evergreen Youth & Family Services is asking the community for help by launching a three-day, multi-media campaign starting next week.

The campaign starts Tuesday and runs through Nov. 10, with an open house from 1-6 p.m. Nov. 9 at the Evergreen Youth Shelter, 622 Mississippi Ave. NW. Testimonials from those who have used Evergreen services will also be airing on the radio.

Evergreen will be selling holiday cards that feature a painted manger scene with the caption "Homelessness is getting old," drawn by a 9-year-old homeless youth who stayed at the Evergreen Shelter.

As an effort to offset federal funding losses, the shelter is directing people to donate online through the organization's website at A link there will guide people through the donation process.

Evergreen Youth & Family Services, a community-based organization working to strengthen youth and families in northern Minnesota, operates a youth shelter, which is fully staffed and open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

This year was the first time in 32 years the youth shelter did not receive a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Family and Youth Bureau.

Every three years, Evergreen staff applies for the competitive grant, which typically provides $100,000 annually for three years.

Evergreen's total budget for this year is $1.7 million, which funds its three sites - the youth shelter, a drop-in center at the intersection of Paul Bunyan Drive Southeast and 15th Street Northwest for youth ages 14-21 and a community services site providing transitional housing for youth ages 16-21.

Less than $600,000 of Evergreen's annual budget goes to its youth shelter. In the past, the federal grant funded about 20 percent of the shelter's budget, which provided key services to at-risk youth and families in the community, said Evergreen Executive Director Becky Schueller.

Program Director Gary Russell said he had expected to receive the grant, which would have bolstered the shelter's budget into 2014, and was surprised and disappointed when he learned Evergreen would not receive the money.

If Evergreen staff can't replenish the grant money it did not receive, Schueller said the shelter could limit who it serves.

"We can probably always figure out a way to keep our doors open," Schueller said. "The jeopardy is can we continue to take the volume of community, youth and families who come for early intervention stays?"

Schueller said the shelter will always be open to youth referred to it by counties and tribes, which the shelter receives partial reimbursement from.

"What we want is our doors to always be open to community youth and families who need those early intervention stays," she said.

"We need that flexibility to help that parent who has an empty bed where a kid should be sleeping," Russell added. "Those situations are what we want to keep doing."

According to Schueller, the United Way of Bemidji Area, which recently ended its 2011 campaign, provided $17,000 to Evergreen, which she said the organization depends on to continue to provide services.