It's an amazing way to start the day...a seated breakfast under the Colorado Avenue bridge with 850 others learning the stories of homeless youth.
Sixty-eight table captains invited co-workers, other nonprofits, friends, neighborhood associations, their running clubs and other connections to join them bright and early at 7 a.m. on July 20. A preliminary $114,525 in gifts and pledges was raised that morning, with more continuing to come in toward the $158,000 goal.
The vision for the Urban Peak Colorado Springs event and for their organization is "ending youth homelessness. I am optimistic," Executive Director Shawna Kemppainen told attendees.
Kemppainen had news to announce. "Our dream of a drop-in center is becoming a reality." In addiction, Urban Peak is teaming with Pikes Peak Library District to become the only city in the state in the National Safe Place Network. They have also become part of A Way Home America Community Dashboard with digital data on youth homelessness and to chart progress.
Guests met Colton, who shared his life story about a mother who was never there for her children because of her drug addiction. The kids learned to survive on their own. When he was 19, police were there to arrest his mother when Colton came home from his full-time job. She ended up in prison. The family lost their home and the car Colton used to get to work.
Homeless and jobless, Colton tried for a new life in Colorado Springs, ending up in the adult homeless shelter where he knew he was in danger from the older men. Discovered by the Urban Peak outreach team, he was guided to their shelter where he was safe, had food and could do his laundry. There was therapy, financial training and job skills education. "At Urban Peak I don't get lost in the shuffle," he said. He smiled as he shyly told guests he has his first apartment and is paying the rent himself. He has "my first new bed, my first pots and pans." Colton also helps out at the Urban Peak shelter, guiding others who need the help he received.
Also sharing her family's story was Cari Davis of Colorado Springs Health Foundation, whose dear uncle was that homeless old guy the people in his small hometown watched over.
Partners Kathy Dreiling and Michelle Talarico and son Sam took the stage as trains passed behind them and shared that their Picnic Basket Catering had provided the morning's breakfast as their donation. Their employees, they said, so believe in Urban Peak that they donated their time as well. The Picnic Basket, announced Dreiling and Talarico, is providing this gift for three more years of Off the Street breakfasts "no matter how large it grows."