On Friday night many teenagers are driving to a movie theater or hanging out with their friends. Some may be heading to their job or others will be attending their high school’s sporting events. They check Facebook and upload pictures on their phones. After a night spent with friends they drive home to a warm house and comfortable bed.
For other teenagers, though, Friday nights are very different. For other teenagers there is no warm bed or home to go to.
“It’s an utterly eye opening experience,” said Marcie Willms ,the communications and events manager at Urban Peak in Denver, about the alarming number of teenage youth living on the streets in Denver. There is a beacon of light in this dark and sad situation.
On 21st street there sits a brick building with numerous glass windows. It’s not hard to miss and inside is the same atmosphere you find in any typical suburban household.
This beacon is Urban Peak, an organization that serves the homeless youth of Denver and Colorado Springs. The Urban Peak in Denver was founded in 1988 by a group of citizens who were concerned with the growing number of homeless youth on the streets.
Eleven years later a group of humanitarian services teamed up and contacted Urban Peak in Denver. The group’s goal was to get an Urban Peak established in Colorado Springs. Both of the organization’s establishments showed homeless youth on the streets that adults did care about their well being.
The first drop-in center was established in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. The overnight shelter serves 15 through 20 year olds. Homeless youth, who may have learned about it from street outreach counselors, social workers, or mental health counselors, can enter Urban Peak at any time.
The reasons teens are homeless varies.
“Every individual’s journey is different,” said Willms. Some teens come from dysfunctional families where the parents were abusive or addicted to drugs. Other teens have aged out of foster care or been kicked out of the house due to their sexual orientation.
Once a homeless teenager enters the shelter, Urban Peak offers many services. The shelter serves meals, provides basic necessities, therapy, employment help, and education services.
“Urban Peak is the largest non-profit organization in Denver serving homeless youth,” said Willms.
The youth that enter the shelter can also choose to enter a GED class offered by the shelter. Seventy-five percent of the youth who take the class graduate with their GED. The shelter also helps the graduates go on to college or trade school.
“Our goal is to help them on a path to self-sufficiency,” said Willms.
Urban Peak receives much of its funding through grants. Grants are funds given to institutions with various goals. Grants are extremely competitive. The shelter also receives revenue from donations and foundations.
The community can help in many ways. Donations are a way to help organizations. “Donations are our lifeblood”, said Willms. Most shelters also have a wish list with the items they need. Many foundations also aid shelters. The community can also volunteer their time.
Urban Peak has helped many homeless teens and remains a symbol of hope. “Awareness [of homelessness] is critical,” said Willms. She believes that the public needs to know the severity of homeless teens.
A big brick building sits on a corner in Denver. Inside is a kitchen where volunteers prepare meals for hungry stomachs. Walk upstairs and it’s an area where knowledge and advice is given and faces smile because someone believes in them. At the front of this building is a door, like many doors that lead to new things. When this door is opened the negatives turn into positives.
Walk outside the building and you are on 21st street. A miracle happened on 34th street and 21street? Well this street is no stranger to miracles either.