Friday, July 21, 2017

Urban Peak's annual "Off the Street" breakfast a success

Posted By on Fri, Jul 21, 2017 at 12:51 PM

Urban Peak, a local nonprofit serving homeless youth, got over 800 people to congregate under the Colorado Avenue bridge early Thursday morning. Sounds like a bizarre feat if it weren't tradition.
click to enlarge Spotted: Indy publisher Carrie Simison (bottom right) - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • Spotted: Indy publisher Carrie Simison (bottom right)
During the breakfast fundraiser, the organization's leaders and supporters spoke about why it's important, as a community, to create the conditions for homeless youth to thrive. Urban Peak does this by providing a safe place to stay at their 20-bed shelter facility downtown, meeting youth where they're at through street outreach, and offering case management in matters of health, education, employment and housing.

"At Urban Peak I don't get lost in the shuffle," Colton, a formerly homeless youth who now works the shelter's front desk, told the audience.

Urban Peak, like many youth and homeless programs, is currently under threat from the Trump administration and its allies in Congress, who have proposed significant cuts to the federal block grants that support anti-poverty efforts. Forty percent of Urban Peak's budget comes from federal sources. For that reason, Urban Peak executive director Shawna Kempainnen, who also serves on the Pikes Peak Continuum of Care board, emphasized that service providers will have to rely on support from local elected officials, businesses and community members more than ever.

"We can end youth homelessness if we are relentless," she said.
click to enlarge Shawna Kempainnen - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • Shawna Kempainnen

Her plea relied as much on logos as it did on pathos. Kempainnen cited an estimate that the city spends about $57,000 a year per chronically homeless person. Compare that to the $17,000 a year Urban Peak's supportive housing program spends to get one youth into his or her own apartment, where they're able to stabilize enough to start paying rent themselves. Over time, especially, the difference there is a stark reminder why it pays to invest in youth before their lives spiral any further.

To further that mission, Kempainnen announced a partnership with the Pikes Peak Library District to launch a "National Safe Place Network" by November. The idea is that teens in crisis who go to the library seeking help would activate a response from Urban Peak's team of staff and volunteers to get them linked up with the resources and services they need right away. Urban Peak is looking for new volunteers to support the effort.

All told, the breakfast brought in $114,500 for the organization — about $44,000 shy of their goal, albeit with 120 fewer attendees than last year.

"But we know the people in the space are always exactly the right people at the right time, and we are overwhelmed with the community’s generosity," Kempainnen wrote in an email thanking table captains. "We will continue engaging people who could not attend to get involved and invested," she added.

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