Century 21 Atwood shares the #RELENTLESS story of Erich Lutz of Duluth, MN.
“It is critical, to be honest, never mislead, and be accountable to what is said to each youth. One misled step can break months of trust that has been built."
“A Lifeline for Homeless Youth”
Becoming homeless is a traumatic, life-altering event. Homeless youth stay tucked away and try to go unnoticed, unlike homeless adults who tend to set up camp on the open streets. Makes it easier for us to not think about, it because they are not in plain sight, right? It is a very real problem that your Relentless Neighbor, Erich Lutz of Life House in Duluth, is giving all of his attention to every day. Life House has been reconnecting homeless & street youth to opportunity and self-sufficiency since 1991, and Erich facilitates all aspects. Shockingly, “Over 800 homeless teens and young adults come through our doors each year and 2/3rds are youth of color” explains Erich. Youth ages 14 to 24 years old, street-involved, homeless, at-risk, can find security and help through the support at Life House, and that support has changed the trajectory of many lives.
If you had to worry about where you are sleeping, nothing else could be a focus. It would be a frightening situation. Because of the fear, what that youth may not realize, is just how dangerous it is to be homeless or couch jumping. Predators can identify a vulnerable youth within 72 hours just by watching them, and they do watch them. Youth can quickly be manipulated into sex and drug trafficking and led to addiction. Just some of the many reasons why Life House is so important. Life House provides services to support youth transition into apartments and other support channels where the team helps each youth to get off the streets and into safety. The staff assists youth to help them go back on their own feet, pursue a career, live in their own apartment, and complete their education. This can’t be done without first providing a place of acceptance, safety, and belonging where youth can imagine a positive and hopeful future. “How can you work on education, employment, anything, without having a place to call home?” Erich is so right about that.
The heartbeat of the organization is the youth drop-in center. Youth have access to clothes, food, mentors, counseling, addiction treatment, peer counselors, and more. They get support from people that do not want anything from them, but just to help them, to give guidance, and build a trusted connection. Trust is key to helping the youth, and it does not happen immediately once someone walks through the door, it takes time and patience. “Being non-judgmental sets the table for them to open up and start to trust”, says Erich. Everyone that comes in seeking help has had their trust shattered by one or more adults in their life. “It is critical, to be honest, never mislead, and be accountable to what is said to each youth. One misled step can break months of trust that has been built."
Erich says his passion stems from his mom. She taught him to be grateful and give back. “We were poor, but we were grateful for our family every day.” Every encounter is an opportunity for Erich to help youth find some sense of family, some sense of the security he had. He cultivates that in each relationship he is building. And he does not do it alone. Many people work at Life House, and no one person could help these youth alone, it takes everyone. You can help too. They need supplies and products and monetary donations. Visit https://lifehouseduluth.org/ to get more information.
“Life House is a lifeline for homeless youth, and our youth’s successes belong to them, not us.”