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click to enlarge This is Laura, 19; see more about her in this story. - GREG KLEINERT
  • Greg Kleinert
  • This is Laura, 19; see more about her in this story.
click to enlarge Anthony, 20, with Pam, 19, and Bijou. The baby is so named because she was conceived under the Bijou Street bridge downtown. Through Urban Peak, Anthony and Pam, who both grew up in Colorado Springs, got an apartment. Since this photo was shot, the couple has split up, though they remain good friends. Now Anthony lives with the baby in the apartment. Pam, whose street name is Rancid (as in spoiled) is now dating Roach. - GREG KLEINERT
  • Greg Kleinert
  • Anthony, 20, with Pam, 19, and Bijou. The baby is so named because she was conceived under the Bijou Street bridge downtown. Through Urban Peak, Anthony and Pam, who both grew up in Colorado Springs, got an apartment. Since this photo was shot, the couple has split up, though they remain good friends. Now Anthony lives with the baby in the apartment. Pam, whose street name is Rancid (as in spoiled) is now dating Roach.

Just as Pittsburgh is known as Steel City, Detroit for its automobiles, Hollywood for its movies and Cleveland as the rubber band capital of the United States, Colorado Springs has established a reputation as a nonprofit center of America.

click to enlarge Adrian, 20, hasnt been around since he, Becky and Iggy took off for the West Coast this summer. Adrian used to be in the military, and became homeless after he got out. He used to sleep in Monument Valley Park downtown. Along the running path there is a stone wall with a couple of trees where some people have picnics. Adrian used to sleep there through the winter, curled up between the stone wall and the trees. Some days, Palmer High School kids jogging by along the path would wake him up, which annoyed him to no end. Like many teen-agers, Adrian sometimes cuts his body up, whether out of anger, boredom or anxiety.
  • Adrian, 20, hasnt been around since he, Becky and Iggy took off for the West Coast this summer. Adrian used to be in the military, and became homeless after he got out. He used to sleep in Monument Valley Park downtown. Along the running path there is a stone wall with a couple of trees where some people have picnics. Adrian used to sleep there through the winter, curled up between the stone wall and the trees. Some days, Palmer High School kids jogging by along the path would wake him up, which annoyed him to no end. Like many teen-agers, Adrian sometimes cuts his body up, whether out of anger, boredom or anxiety.

Only New York, Chicago and the Washington D.C. metropolitan area are home to a greater number of the nation's top 100 nonprofits, according to the New Jersey-based Non-Profit Times.

click to enlarge Becky, 18, is a spunky kid with freckles. She doesnt seem hardened, but appears perfectly happy living on the streets. This summer Becky took off to California and Oregon with Iggy and Adrian. Shes pregnant now, and is currently in Cincinnati with her parents. - GREG KLEINERT
  • Greg Kleinert
  • Becky, 18, is a spunky kid with freckles. She doesnt seem hardened, but appears perfectly happy living on the streets. This summer Becky took off to California and Oregon with Iggy and Adrian. Shes pregnant now, and is currently in Cincinnati with her parents.

Beginning nearly 15 years ago, with the city's economy in the dumps, the local Economic Development Corporation and Chamber of Commerce -- with financial relocation incentives provided by the El Pomar Foundation -- decided to court national and international nonprofit groups.

click to enlarge Roach, 19, with Angie, 19. Roach doesnt really participate in the program, though he stops by the center sometimes to get something to eat and some supplies. Hes content with his lifestyle on the streets and takes his look to the extreme, wearing a trench coat and a screwdriver through his pierced ear. Angie, meanwhile, is working hard on getting her GED. Shes got a book of poetry and dreams about traveling the globe. She is on the streets because parental relationships and life at home just didnt work out. - GREG KLEINERT
  • Greg Kleinert
  • Roach, 19, with Angie, 19. Roach doesnt really participate in the program, though he stops by the center sometimes to get something to eat and some supplies. Hes content with his lifestyle on the streets and takes his look to the extreme, wearing a trench coat and a screwdriver through his pierced ear. Angie, meanwhile, is working hard on getting her GED. Shes got a book of poetry and dreams about traveling the globe. She is on the streets because parental relationships and life at home just didnt work out.

Their reasons to entice charitable and religious organizations to establish their headquarters to Colorado Springs were twofold: First, nonprofit groups were generally considered "clean" business, both for the environment and for the community. Second, the national and international exposure that company headquarters bring to a community is priceless.

click to enlarge Iggy Igloo is 20 and was considered a father figure for many of Colorado Springs homeless teens. But this summer Iggy, his girlfriend Becky and Adrian took off for California and Oregon and he hasnt been back. In Colorado Springs, Iggy Igloo, so named because he is Eskimo, lived in sewer drains, and also liked to sleep under bridges and on the top of buildings, accessed by climbing up fire escapes. - GREG KLEINERT
  • Greg Kleinert
  • Iggy Igloo is 20 and was considered a father figure for many of Colorado Springs homeless teens. But this summer Iggy, his girlfriend Becky and Adrian took off for California and Oregon and he hasnt been back. In Colorado Springs, Iggy Igloo, so named because he is Eskimo, lived in sewer drains, and also liked to sleep under bridges and on the top of buildings, accessed by climbing up fire escapes.

Today, more than 100 of the nation's biggest-budget charities call Colorado Springs home, including five of America's largest nonprofit organizations. The United States Olympic Committee, Junior Achievement, Young Life and the Navigators and their publishing arm NavPress -- which were already located in the Springs -- are now joined by dozens of national and international groups. More than 60 of them are religious -- including Focus on the Family, Every Home For Christ and the International Bible Society. Many more are national athletic groups, including the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, U.S. Cycling Federation, USA Hockey, the U.S. Figure Skating Association and the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes.

click to enlarge Tech, 19, became homeless after he and his mom and sister began having what he calls communication problems. He moved out onto the streets, often camping out and then hanging out during the days in Acacia Park. Basically all you need to be homeless in Colorado Springs is a good sleeping bag, he says. But living on the streets, he says, invites intense police scrutiny and citations for everything from trespassing to loitering, and some officers have illegally searched him without a warrant. Tech is currently living back at home, but says the arrangement still isnt great. Hes got a million entrepreneurial business ideas; his freshest idea is the concept of prepaid bondsmen. Here, Tech is holding a kitten that he and his girlfriend Jessica bought. They named it Kiki but have since given it away. - GREG KLEINERT
  • Greg Kleinert
  • Tech, 19, became homeless after he and his mom and sister began having what he calls communication problems. He moved out onto the streets, often camping out and then hanging out during the days in Acacia Park. Basically all you need to be homeless in Colorado Springs is a good sleeping bag, he says. But living on the streets, he says, invites intense police scrutiny and citations for everything from trespassing to loitering, and some officers have illegally searched him without a warrant. Tech is currently living back at home, but says the arrangement still isnt great. Hes got a million entrepreneurial business ideas; his freshest idea is the concept of prepaid bondsmen. Here, Tech is holding a kitten that he and his girlfriend Jessica bought. They named it Kiki but have since given it away.

The downside to the economic development leaders' strategy is also twofold: The exposure has not always cast Colorado Springs in a positive light. Notably, recent scandals within the United States Olympic Committee and the sometimes-extreme fundamentalist political stances of Focus on the Family have placed the city in an unfavorable national and international spotlight. And, because nonprofit groups pay no property taxes, some cite the greater-than-average loss of revenues to help pay for roads and other infrastructure in a fast-growing city.

click to enlarge Laura, 19, calls the streets her home but, is all about style. Like other homeless teens, she cant afford Tommy Hilfiger or Nike or other name brands, but good, quality boots, often combat boots, are essential. Torn jeans, especially at the feet, are common. Many take bottle caps and fold them in half over their cuffs. Some wear wristbands and safety pins in their clothes, not to hold them together but as a fashion statement. Most of the girls wear a lot of necklaces, cherished possessions often made by their friends. Some wear little bottles filled with fluids around their necks. Many of them wear hot hats and coats year-round. When their clothes are ripped, theyll go to the dental clinic for free floss and use it as thread to sew them back up. The teens dont like being branded homeless and dont like the stereotypical look of a homeless person, laden down with backpacks and sleeping bags. They usually just stash their stuff in a hidey hole. - GREG KLEINERT
  • Greg Kleinert
  • Laura, 19, calls the streets her home but, is all about style. Like other homeless teens, she cant afford Tommy Hilfiger or Nike or other name brands, but good, quality boots, often combat boots, are essential. Torn jeans, especially at the feet, are common. Many take bottle caps and fold them in half over their cuffs. Some wear wristbands and safety pins in their clothes, not to hold them together but as a fashion statement. Most of the girls wear a lot of necklaces, cherished possessions often made by their friends. Some wear little bottles filled with fluids around their necks. Many of them wear hot hats and coats year-round. When their clothes are ripped, theyll go to the dental clinic for free floss and use it as thread to sew them back up. The teens dont like being branded homeless and dont like the stereotypical look of a homeless person, laden down with backpacks and sleeping bags. They usually just stash their stuff in a hidey hole.

And the big players often overshadow other nonprofit groups whose focus is local, not global. All told, the Colorado Springs Non-Profit Chamber reports more then 1,500 not-for-profit organizations in Colorado Springs. And the vast majority of those have small staffs and small budgets to work with. Whether their focus is on the arts, service clubs, youth, aged, disabled, indigent or the working poor -- these groups often offer services that the government cannot or will not provide.

click to enlarge At 21, Sara is too old to be in the program anymore, but still comes by the Urban Peak center occasionally to visit her friends. Between 10 and 12 of the homeless girls who get services from Urban Peak are pregnant at any given time. It is not because they dont have access to contraceptives; often its a combination of wanting someone to love them, wanting physical closeness, wanting a baby that will love them and living for today without thinking about the future. Some of the babies end up with their parents, some end up in the care of Social Services, and some have medical problems due to a lack of prenatal care and the expectant mothers lifestyle. - GREG KLEINERT
  • Greg Kleinert
  • At 21, Sara is too old to be in the program anymore, but still comes by the Urban Peak center occasionally to visit her friends. Between 10 and 12 of the homeless girls who get services from Urban Peak are pregnant at any given time. It is not because they dont have access to contraceptives; often its a combination of wanting someone to love them, wanting physical closeness, wanting a baby that will love them and living for today without thinking about the future. Some of the babies end up with their parents, some end up in the care of Social Services, and some have medical problems due to a lack of prenatal care and the expectant mothers lifestyle.

An estimated 250 to 300 teen-agers in Colorado Springs are living without their families and without a home.

click to enlarge Shorty arrived in Colorado Springs from Puerto Rico, after a stint in New York City. She wants to join the Army, but has to get her GED first. - GREG KLEINERT
  • Greg Kleinert
  • Shorty arrived in Colorado Springs from Puerto Rico, after a stint in New York City. She wants to join the Army, but has to get her GED first.

"They don't like to be called homeless; they say the streets are their home," says John McIlwee, executive director of Urban Peak, a nonprofit organization that works with the teen-agers.

click to enlarge Jessica, at left, with Becky. Jessica, 16, used to attend Palmer High School. Jessica is clean cut, polite, and smart, and doesnt dress radically. You wouldnt know she was homeless, says Greg Kleinert. She used to hang out in Acacia Park with her boyfriend Tech, also a former Palmer student. Its weird, they say,  seeing the other kids that they used to go to school with, when youre homeless and they arent. Jessica currently has a babysitting job in Fountain. - GREG KLEINERT
  • Greg Kleinert
  • Jessica, at left, with Becky. Jessica, 16, used to attend Palmer High School. Jessica is clean cut, polite, and smart, and doesnt dress radically. You wouldnt know she was homeless, says Greg Kleinert. She used to hang out in Acacia Park with her boyfriend Tech, also a former Palmer student. Its weird, they say, seeing the other kids that they used to go to school with, when youre homeless and they arent. Jessica currently has a babysitting job in Fountain.

"Our young friends have either chosen, or forced to be, on the streets of our city for various reasons. Some have come from abusive homes and had to leave to survive or just got tired of the treatment they were receiving. Many [left home] because of drugs, alcohol or mental health issues -- their own or their families.

click to enlarge Of the 274 youth that Urban Peak provided services to last year, 22 percent of them were gay or lesbian. For many, their parents couldnt handle their kids sexual identities and booted them out of the house. Princess, AKA Damian, AKA Shane, goes by lots of names, and like other homeless kids, opts to be called by his street monikers. Princess, 19, is a drag queen who likes to perform at the gay club Hide N Seek, and dreams about going to cosmetology school. He recently got a job at a fast-food restaurant, but that only lasted about five hours and Princess hasnt been seen around lately. Thats the hardest part, says volunteer Pam Jones. When they just disappear. - GREG KLEINERT
  • Greg Kleinert
  • Of the 274 youth that Urban Peak provided services to last year, 22 percent of them were gay or lesbian. For many, their parents couldnt handle their kids sexual identities and booted them out of the house. Princess, AKA Damian, AKA Shane, goes by lots of names, and like other homeless kids, opts to be called by his street monikers. Princess, 19, is a drag queen who likes to perform at the gay club Hide N Seek, and dreams about going to cosmetology school. He recently got a job at a fast-food restaurant, but that only lasted about five hours and Princess hasnt been seen around lately. Thats the hardest part, says volunteer Pam Jones. When they just disappear.

"Very few of them run away as a lark and last on the street for any length of time."

click to enlarge Garrett, 20 is a poet, an anarchist and a sharp dresser. Before becoming homeless, he was in the Army. He signed on with Urban Peak two years ago and has really turned his life around, says Kleinert. Garrett hasnt been seen around much lately, and the last they heard from him, he was looking for a job at Independent Records. Many of the homeless teens want to work there not only because they are into music but also because there they can wear what they want, instead of the uniform or starched white shirt that is required by most Colorado Springs businesses. - GREG KLEINERT
  • Greg Kleinert
  • Garrett, 20 is a poet, an anarchist and a sharp dresser. Before becoming homeless, he was in the Army. He signed on with Urban Peak two years ago and has really turned his life around, says Kleinert. Garrett hasnt been seen around much lately, and the last they heard from him, he was looking for a job at Independent Records. Many of the homeless teens want to work there not only because they are into music but also because there they can wear what they want, instead of the uniform or starched white shirt that is required by most Colorado Springs businesses.

Four years ago, Urban Peak organized with the singular goal of getting these kids off the street; they run a drop-in center four days a week and offer medical care, educational services, help with getting a job and case management. It's hard work for the teen-agers. They have to be serious about wanting to get their GED, get a steady job, and get into an apartment.

click to enlarge JD, 20, is a hippie. Kleinert describes his as very wise, an old soul. JDs also a traveler; this summer he took off to meet up with Iggy, Becky and Adrian at a rave party in the middle of the Utah desert. Now hes back in Colorado Springs and is starting to think about getting his GED. Well respected by the other kids, JD is considered one of the leaders now that Iggy has left. - GREG KLEINERT
  • Greg Kleinert
  • JD, 20, is a hippie. Kleinert describes his as very wise, an old soul. JDs also a traveler; this summer he took off to meet up with Iggy, Becky and Adrian at a rave party in the middle of the Utah desert. Now hes back in Colorado Springs and is starting to think about getting his GED. Well respected by the other kids, JD is considered one of the leaders now that Iggy has left.

Right now 23 formerly homeless teens are living in their own apartments, thanks to Urban Peak. The organization is currently pursuing a capital campaign to raise $1.5 million for a homeless youth shelter.

click to enlarge Usually you can tell the difference between homeless teens who left their parents because they wanted to be independent and the ones who left because they felt safer on the streets. Some are angry at the world, and drugs and alcohol are their focus; others look like and act like everyday teen-agers who arent trying to fight the system or authority. Emily, 19, has been on the streets for a couple of years. She lived under the viaducts and in shelters in Chicago but got fed up with constantly being hassled and hit on so she saved up some money, bought an old beater and for six months lived inside the car, parked next to the train tracks in downtown Chicago. Now back home in Colorado Springs, Emily wants to go to college in Maine and eventually hopes to write and illustrate childrens books. - GREG KLEINERT
  • Greg Kleinert
  • Usually you can tell the difference between homeless teens who left their parents because they wanted to be independent and the ones who left because they felt safer on the streets. Some are angry at the world, and drugs and alcohol are their focus; others look like and act like everyday teen-agers who arent trying to fight the system or authority. Emily, 19, has been on the streets for a couple of years. She lived under the viaducts and in shelters in Chicago but got fed up with constantly being hassled and hit on so she saved up some money, bought an old beater and for six months lived inside the car, parked next to the train tracks in downtown Chicago. Now back home in Colorado Springs, Emily wants to go to college in Maine and eventually hopes to write and illustrate childrens books.

To help raise awareness about the city's little-discussed youth homeless problem, Urban Peak volunteer and photographer Greg Kleinert has been photographing the teens. His photographs, featured on this page and on following pages, will be on display at a public exhibition next Thursday, Sept 25 at the Warehouse Gallery downtown. The teens will also be there to read their poetry aloud.

click to enlarge Ed recently came to Colorado Springs from Wyoming. Hes polite, soft-spoken and not a gangbanger. But many of the teen-agers adopt a hardened look, including wearing bandannas and spike neck chokers, to deflect predators. - GREG KLEINERT
  • Greg Kleinert
  • Ed recently came to Colorado Springs from Wyoming. Hes polite, soft-spoken and not a gangbanger. But many of the teen-agers adopt a hardened look, including wearing bandannas and spike neck chokers, to deflect predators.

capsule

click to enlarge Cavemans real name is Kevin but he prefers that everyone call him Caveman. He looks pretty scary in this picture, but in reality he almost always has a grin on his face. And Caveman, 19, is a computer genius. He isnt currently homeless, but recently got an apartment and is doing well. - GREG KLEINERT
  • Greg Kleinert
  • Cavemans real name is Kevin but he prefers that everyone call him Caveman. He looks pretty scary in this picture, but in reality he almost always has a grin on his face. And Caveman, 19, is a computer genius. He isnt currently homeless, but recently got an apartment and is doing well.

The Essence of Us: Exploring Homelessness Through Art

click to enlarge Jason, AKA Nightwolf, just turned 21 and recently got his GED. He was so excited and showing it to everybody; Ive never seen a kid more excited, but he was trying to play it cool, says volunteer Greg Kleinert. Nightwolf really wants to get into truck driving school, and is trying to figure out a way to pay for it. - GREG KLEINERT
  • Greg Kleinert
  • Jason, AKA Nightwolf, just turned 21 and recently got his GED. He was so excited and showing it to everybody; Ive never seen a kid more excited, but he was trying to play it cool, says volunteer Greg Kleinert. Nightwolf really wants to get into truck driving school, and is trying to figure out a way to pay for it.

Thursday, Sept. 25, 6-9 p.m.

The Warehouse Gallery

25 W. Cimarron St.

Free and open to the public

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