For five years enthusiastic crowds of about 1,000 supporters gathered for breakfast under the Colorado Avenue bridge to support programs for homeless young people served by The Place, a former affiliate of Urban Peak.
On July 16, the Off the Street event followed COVID-19 crowd restrictions, going online for 2020. Beginning at 7:30 a.m., there were videos about “The Why” and speakers in masks from outside The Place shelter. Then donors drove by to pick up catered Picnic Basket breakfasts from shelter volunteers. Videos could be viewed all day and donations were accepted toward the $189,000 goal on their site theplacecos.org. The first car to arrive that morning made an anonymous $5,000 donation.
Executive Director Shawna Kemppainen said the pandemic’s “health and long-term economic consequences will continue to hit young people hard, especially those living unhoused.” She said, “The data show that between 300 to 350 young people each month are actively homeless in our community, and 40% of them are surviving outside.”
Her “Why” for support: “Youth and young adults experiencing homelessness need safe shelter, support, healthcare, housing, jobs and the chance to get back to school.”
The day’s on-site spokesman, Ben, was a delight, sharing honestly why he’s at the shelter and what he has accomplished.
At The Place “you don’t have to worry about where to stay at night,” Ben said. He’s 19 and had struggled with being an unwanted foster child, with drug addiction and with being convicted of a crime. Now, working with The Place’s case management, he’s in online high school, works in day labor, dreams of having an apartment, is learning budgeting and leans toward a dream of becoming a tattoo artist.
He also loves the guitar, but when asked if he would play for everyone he carefully queried if there would be a problem with royalties for the artist because it was online.
Ben has found a place to belong at The Place and spends time with others there who are also “working toward stability and independence” while they experience socialization.
Kemppainen said, “we believe every young person needs a place to belong,” adding that The Place also provides “acceptance, guidance and support.”
Youth served are homeless, ages 15-24, and programs offered include shelter, outreach, housing, healthcare and mental health services.
There were 602 people served in 2019, including 185, ages 15-20, in the shelter program. Many had suffered family conflict, including LGBTQ issues. There had often been abuse.
The Street Outreach Team was interviewed during the video as they set out on a five to eight mile daily hike to reach out to youth, talking to 500-600 each year. That day one team went down South Nevada and another to the trails. They wore backpacks with resources, water, hygiene items, case management materials, sunscreen and mental health information. Often the most important item they deliver is just conversation.
Upcoming nonprofit fundraisers turned virtual:
• Fur Ball, Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region. Aug. 1, 7 p.m. The signature fundraising gala, with a virtual Hawaii-Fid-O theme. Tune in from home for the fun and share selfies of outfits and your pets. Donations to support homeless, abused and neglected animals. hsppr.org.
• National Mill Dog Rescue Virtual Dog Jog. Aug. 22, 9 a.m.-noon. Pups and their humans head out on their own to run “at a park, around your neighborhood, in the mountains, or at home on a treadmill.” Run or walk, then go online for activities. Register for Dog Jog 2020 Facebook Group at nmdr.org.
•Citizens Project Creating Community Virtual Breakfast and Cocktail Hour, Aug. 27, 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., Zoom and Facebook Live, citizensproject.org and Facebook.
•Shrimp Boil to benefit Cheyenne Village, Aug. 28, possibly combining virtual or in-person at Cheyenne Mountain Resort, cheyennevillage.org
•Pasta on the Porch, TESSA, cooking competition judging at home, virtual silent auction, Aug. 29, 6:30 p.m., tessacs.org/pasta-2020/
• Special Kids Special Families Night of Comedy, Oct. 10. Virtual. Supports Zach’s Place program for kids with disabilities. Comic Steve Mazan. Silent auction. sksfcolorado.org/event/noc