75 people sleep on #ColoradoSprings streets as a fundraiser for #homelessyouth


More than 75 volunteers will sleep outside Thursday night as a fundraiser for Urban Peak’s shelter program. This is the fourth annual Night Out to End Youth Homelessness, held during national Homeless Youth  Awareness Month

Volunteers sponsor their night out by raising money and learning about the challenges facing youth who are homeless and trying to find a way out.

Participants will be sleeping in the parking lot and sidewalk at First United Methodist Church in downtown Colorado Springs.

No tents are allowed during the night out, but participants can use sleeping bags, cardboard boxes and tarps to survive the elements.

“One in four youth who go without shelter will become victims of human trafficking,” Shawna Kemppainen, executive director of Urban Peak Colorado Springs said in a news release. “Our night out in the cold will help youth come in from the cold this winter.”

The collective goal is to raise at least $40,000, enough to support Urban Peak’s shelter program through the winter holidays. Urban Peak operates a 20-bed shelter for youth ages 15 through 20. It costs about $71 per night to provide youth shelter, food, counseling and other services at Urban Peak.

More here.

#Immigrant Youth Are Dreaming Up a Home in Basalt

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Art Base, a nonprofit cultural center in Basalt, is working with youth from the town's Latino immigrant community to create dream homes through art. Led by local artist Ajax Axe, the project is helping twelve young men and one young woman, some DREAMers and others recently arrived immigrants, to explore the concept of home and connect to where they live today.

Basalt is where many workers who serve the wealthy ski haven of Aspen live, and the economic gap between the two towns is stark.

"It's weird for them to live in this small community with such a big disparity," Ajax says. "There's this want to participate in events that are popular here, like skiing, but can't because of money, language."

All the participating students are enrolled in the English Language Development program at Basalt High School led by Leticia Ingram, the 2016 Colorado Teacher of the Year.

More here.

A warm, nurturing place for homeless youths

Young people make up 9 to 10 percent of people experiencing homelessness. In El Paso county there can be over 100 youths on the street on any given night. They are at greater risk of dropping out of school, don't have adult role models to teach them basic life skills, and are more likely to be targeted by human traffickers. Urban Peak is the only organization in our area specifically rallying around these kids and working to provide them the opportunity to thrive.

"Our whole mission is to ignite the potential in youth to exit homelessness and lead self-determined, fulfilled lives, and they define that for themselves," says Executive Director Shawna Kemppainen. "That is probably the thing that we do best and differently from most places. We stand beside youth and we let them say 'Here is where I am going to head.'"

Urban Peak runs three programs for youths 15 through 20: street outreach, a shelter and a housing program. Lots of kids — over 400 a year — get their first introduction to Urban Peak by meeting the street outreach team. They are there to offer unconditional acceptance as kids make difficult decisions for their survival. Kemppainen explains: "About 30 percent of youth who are out on the street will actually end up engaging in some sort of survival sex — trading sex for money, food, a place to stay ... but they are also very mistrusting of adults, so it takes many, many conversations with them [before they are willing to come to the shelter]." The street outreach team builds relationships and patiently rebuilds trust. Their focus is helping young people find their next step — contacting a safe family member, finding a place to stay or getting into the shelter.

Click here for the full article from Colorado Springs Independent.