Youth who experience homelessness could be one step closer to getting off the street as Urban Peak Colorado Springs expands its outreach team and joins forces with Inside/Out Youth Services.
With start-up funding from the City of Colorado Springs Community Development Block Grant program, Urban Peak will have an additional outreach counselor primarily focusing in Downtown Colorado Springs. In addition to being on the streets of the city, the outreach team will now be able to utilize space at Inside/Out Youth Services location on South Tejon.
“Connecting youth to trusted adults who will not judge them is the first and most vital step in helping a young person get off the street and see the possibility of a better future,” says Shawna Kemppainen, executive director for Urban Peak Colorado Springs. “We know that Inside/Out Youth Services is a safe space for all young people, and we know their staff are trained in working with youth experiencing homelessness. Youth are hesitant and often fearful of seeking assistance from adult-oriented organizations, and so the connection to Inside/Out is a natural fit.”
Eric Pizana is the executive director of Inside/Out Youth Services. “The unfortunate fact is LGBT youth are anywhere from 25% to 40% of the homeless youth population,” says Pizana. “Inside/Out Youth Services regularly work with at-risk youth and we understand the kind of environment that will support young people in need. We are glad to be part of the solution that helps youth escape homelessness and to become accomplished and successful adults.”
Outreach counselors connect with young people on the street and provide basic needs such as socks, water, and hygiene kits. Additionally, they can connect youth with essential resources such as helping them replace lost and stolen IDs or even to reunify with family when that’s an appropriate option. Most importantly, the outreach workers begin to build a relationship of trust with an adult that is often missing from a youth’s life. That trust can lead to youth eventually seeking further support such as shelter, recovery programs and employment or education assistance. Last year, Urban Peak Colorado Springs reached 387 young people between the approximate ages of 15 to 25 who were living on the street, under bridges, in cars or in other uninhabitable environments.
The collaboration also brings two nonprofit leaders full circle. Pizana was formerly an outreach counselor at Urban Peak, and Kemppainen is the former executive director of Inside/Out.
About Inside/Out Youth Services
Inside/Out Youth Services is a private 501(c)3 Non-Profit Organization in Colorado Springs serving the Pikes Peak Region. The mission was establish in 1990 as a program of the El Paso County Department of Health and Environment, became a private non-profit in 1997 under the name Community Council for Adolescent Development, and changed its name to Inside/Out Youth Services in 2002. Our mission is to educate, empower and advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning (LGBTIQ) youth. Inside, we provide safety and acceptance for youth. Out in the community, we promote understanding, respect and equality. For more information, visit www.insideoutys.org
About Urban Peak
Founded in 1999, Urban Peak Colorado Springs is a non-profit organization that provides a full convergence of services for youth ages 15 to 25 experiencing homelessness or youth who are at imminent risk of becoming homeless. Urban Peak serves youth along their individual journeys to self-sufficiency in providing a 20-bed shelter, street outreach, daytime life skills classes and activities, education and employment services, case management, behavior health services, meals and more. In fiscal year 2013, Urban Peak Colorado Springs assisted more than 500 young people to build a better future. For more information, visit www.urbanpeak.org.