They were walking, biking and driving to breakfast. Under the Colorado Avenue bridge.

They didn’t know they would leave as belayers, usually the word for support systems in rock climbing. Instead, they went on belay for homeless and runaway youths.

The 988 people beneath the bridge, beside the railroad tracks in the early morning light July 19, left with caribiners after their donated Picnic Basket breakfast as reminders that the more than $180,000 they gave will help Urban Peak move even more homeless young people off the street.

Attached to their “biners,” the explanation:

Homelessness: A steep rock wall that can seem insurmountable.

Belaying: Techniques used to exert tension on a safety rope so that a climber won’t fall.

Belayer: The person on the ground who secures the climber, providing slack or tension as needed as the climber ascends.

You (the 988 supporters): The person on belay for youth at Urban Peak.

The morning dream described is a Drop-In Center where, said Executive Director Shawna Kemppainen, “every youth who needs our help will get that help in 24 hours.” It will keep youth in need out of adult facilities. It will be a place “where they can leave their stuff,” take a shower, get ready to go to work, meet with staff and be safe. The center’s location is expected to be announced within a month.

Money raised at Off the Street will support Urban Peak’s current work, the street outreach, its shelter and the new center. Last year, the street program reached 569 youths, and another 150 had been in the shelter. Programs helped most build self-sufficiency, find jobs and housing.

“This year we intend to make a much greater impact to ignite the potential in youth to exit homelessness,” said Wayne Bland, board member, longtime volunteer and a breakfast table host with his wife, Pam.


Around Town columnist, nonprofit event coverage Entertainment writer

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