A few years ago, a young woman in Eden Prairie experienced homelessness.
Because of the time and effort it took to find a safe place to live, it was difficult for her to find work and complete her professional training to become a nurse.
She then learned about Onward Eden Prairie, a nonprofit that offered what she needed.
While living at Onward, she found safe and stable housing along with personal support. With the organization’s help, she was able to complete her nursing degree, secure employment in the field, and eventually transition to independent housing.
According to Wilder Research, homeless young adults are at high risk of continuing into adulthood without stable housing. Of those, 52% first became homeless before age 24, and 36% first experienced homelessness before turning 18.
Recognizing the need for stable housing for young adults, a group of long-time residents and community leaders in Eden Prairie established Onward Eden Prairie in 2017.
The organization operates a single-family home in Eden Prairie where currently four young women live for a limited time (up to two years, generally). Eden Prairie’s Immanuel Lutheran Church owns the home and leases it to Onward for $1 per year.
Before coming to Onward, many of the people there experienced trauma from abuse and mental illness, while some had dropped out of high school. At Onward, residents live on-site and find a path to completing their education, achieving stable employment, and eventually transitioning to independent living.
“I am learning about myself and who I can be,” said one resident. “I didn’t use to think about who I could be because I didn’t think I could be anything.”
Tricia Wright, who has been Onward Eden Prairie’s executive director since 2022, previously served on its board of directors and directs her professional energies towards growing nonprofit organizations, with a focus on fundraising development and strategic planning. Wright earned a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Minnesota, with a specialization in social entrepreneurship and organizational leadership.
She is especially passionate about the mission of Onward Eden Prairie.
“Young adults are at a critical stage in life and ensuring they have access to safe housing is so important,” she says.
Day-to-day life at Onward’s house is overseen by Corey Sentieri, who has a background in program management and social services.
“We address whatever our clients’ needs are and help them become self sufficient,” she said.
Sentieri described a typical day for an Onward Eden Prairie client as going to work or school and sharing cooking and household chores.
The clients are encouraged to collaborate, promoting mutual support and good social behaviors. Sentieri said of the current clients living there, “all four have become a family. They take care of each other and enjoy life together.”
Before becoming a resident, each person must pass a background check and commit to being employed or in school. They also commit to not drinking alcohol or engaging in substance use inside the Onward House while pursuing meaningful life goals, such as education and long-term employment.
During their stay at Onward, Sentieri maintains a regular schedule with each client. In the first few months, Sentieri and a new client will meet weekly. As clients progress, the frequency moves to bi-weekly and then eventually monthly. Meetings also happen on an informal basis. Sentieri is on-site at the home 30 hours per week.
Support for Onward Eden Prairie’s mission is strong.
To date, more than 60 volunteers have contributed an estimated 1,200 hours of service. As important, financial support has grown. In 2022, Onward’s donor base grew by 34%, with total donations exceeding that year’s target. Additionally, the nonprofit now has a challenge grant from the Charlson Foundation, which will match donations from new donors up to $10,000.
Thinking about Onward Eden Prairie’s future, the keyword is growth.
“The need for Onward’s services is so much greater than what we’re presently able to meet,” Wright said.
Plans are now in the works to expand capacity to support more clients. This includes developing an aftercare component to continue helping clients who have moved into their own housing. It may also include introducing a new independent living program or acquiring a second residence.
We offer several ways for our readers to provide feedback. Your comments are welcome on our social media posts (Facebook, X, Instagram, Threads, and LinkedIn). We also encourage Letters to the Editor; submission guidelines can be found on our Contact Us page. If you believe this story has an error or you would like to get in touch with the author, please connect with us.