WILLMAR -- When T.C. was 16 years old, she and her 3-month-old daughter were in foster care.
Two years later the Kandiyohi County youth was pregnant with her second child.
But because she was 18 and no longer qualified for foster care, she found herself at risk of being homeless with two young children.
That's when she was referred to Lutheran Social Services' Youth Program, which served 68 Kandiyohi County youth last year.
That included 17 Kandiyohi County youth who were homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, according to program coordinator Angela Mateski, who gave an update on the program to the Kandiyohi County Board this week.
The housing program provides transitional housing for homeless youth by helping them find and secure an apartment and assisting them in making initial deposits and rent.
Youth, like T.C., who did not want to give her name, also receive help finding a job and applying for state or federal assistance.
"Once this groundwork is in place, the outreach worker meets with the youth in their home weekly," said Mateski.
The meetings help the youth "practice skill building" and make sure they have enough information and assistance to maintain their housing.
"I am just very thankful for the services they provided me," said T.C., a former recipient of the transitional housing program, who shared her story with the commissioners on Tuesday.
At that time, T.C. said she didn't know how to handle all the legal hoops of finding her own apartment. She said Mateski taught her safe and educational activities to do with her children and helped her organize important paperwork that she would otherwise have thrown away.
Mateski also helped her set and meet goals for the future.
"I just feel she just helped me a lot," said T.C., as tears slipped down her cheeks.
Now 20 years old, T.C. is attending Ridgewater College and earning top grades with the hope of going into human services.
Commissioner Harlan Madsen commended T.C. for having the "courage to stand up and speak" about her "profound and life-changing" experiences.
Madsen also praised the program for standing out as a "top priority" community program.
Mateski said there is always a waiting list in Kandiyohi County for the transitional housing program. Because of federal stimulus funding provided additional housing dollars to "assist youth in transitioning from care to independence," the waiting list has now been trimmed to 12.
Madsen said he was pleased additional money was added to the program. "I thought it was going to be whacked like most everything has been whacked," he said.