Navigating through the teen and young adult years is stressful and confusing. Imagine if you also had to wonder where you would sleep that night and whether you would eat that day?
Tragically, homelessness is the situation for many Americans, many of whom are teenagers and in their twenties.
The National Scope of Homelessness
In 2017, 553,742 Americans experienced homelessness, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. That is more people than the current population of Colorado Springs!
In Our Community
In El Paso County, as many as 1,300 people were homeless during a Point in Time Survey conducted in Winter 2016. Of these, nearly 100 were between the ages of 18-24.
Youth experience homelessness for various reasons, including:
- lack of affordable housing and shelters
- mental health issues
- substance abuse problems
- parental neglect or abuse
- family conflict over parenting status or sexual orientation
However, they all have a basic need for a safe, warm place to stay and food to eat. They also benefit from services that empower them to grow and to change their current circumstances.
This is why a shelter that serves only youth in El Paso and Teller counties provides a vital role in our community. And thanks to a new program that begins this month, Urban Peak will reach more youth, offering them a safe place to stay and other vital programs.
Opportunity to Reach More Youth in Need
Urban Peak is bringing the National Safe Place Program to the greater Colorado Springs area. Youth in dangerous or difficult situations can ask a librarian at any Pikes Peak Library for a Safe Place. A volunteer will come to the library to give the teen a ride to Urban Peak, where they will receive help. This is an amazing opportunity for Urban Peak to reach youth across the region. Before this program, kids needing help had to go to the Urban Peak location and many lack the resources to do so.
One way they will inform area youth about this program is through monthly book talks presented by the librarians at junior highs and high schools. For more information about this program and how you can help, click here.
Julian McGinn, Volunteer Manager of Urban Peak, said this is important. “The first couple of days on the streets is when young people typically face adverse situations such as assault or being approached for human trafficking. This program is a way to reach young people quicker.”
Combating Human Trafficking
January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
It is estimated that 100,000 to 300,000 children in the United States are at risk of being sexually exploited into forced prostitution or pornography each year.
Here is a resource you can use learn more about the signs of human trafficking.
One local non-profit organization that works with law enforcement to help those affected by human trafficking is Restore Innocence. Their website is: www restore innocence.com. They have a series of Human Trafficking Prevention Series of events planned in late January and February.
You can help by providing restoration bags to the clients they serve or volunteering as part of their Mentor Program.
Urban Peak’s Role in the Community
Urban Peak is a shelter located in central Colorado Springs that specifically provides basic needs and other services to 15-20 year olds. It began in 2000, after a coalition of service providers approached the Denver branch of Urban Peak, a youth shelter and drop-in center, about implementing a similar program here in El Paso County.
They moved into their current location, called THE Place, in December 2004 and have been making a difference for the youth in our community ever since.
How Urban Peak is Making a Difference
In 2017, the Street Outreach Program supported 510 youth. This program uses case managers to reach out to youth who live on the streets or in uninhabitable situations. The goal of this program is to establish a trusting relationship with these youth to ultimately help them off the streets.
Additionally, 168 youth were provided with shelter. Due to lack of resources, 43 youth were turned away. Beds are on a first-come, first-serve basis, and the need far exceeds the number of beds available. This is a common problem at the local shelters that serve adults too.
Other Services Urban Peak Provides
Besides the shelter, and three meals a day, Urban Peak provides services that address other needs. Among them are extensive case management, counseling and medical care, life skills and job training classes, and temporary and permanent housing programs.
These services give youth the support and training that they need to transition from the streets into a stable job and living situation. And they help to fulfill Urban Peak’s mission statement of, “igniting the potential in youth to exit homelessness and create self-determined, fulfilled lives.”
How Can You Help Urban Peak Achieve Their Mission?
Even a small amount of your time can make a big difference. Help with meal preparation for those staying at the shelter. Two hours, and a bit of culinary skill, is all it takes to serve. It might be fun to do with your spouse or friends each month. Other ways to serve include teaching a class, representing Urban Peak at a fundraising event, or hosting a donation drive.
Here are other ways you can help: