The Issue

According to the 2013 Point-In-Time survey conducted by the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative (MDHI), there are approximately 921 youth between the ages 13 to 24 on the streets in Denver on any given night. Nationally, there is an estimated 575,000 – 1.6 million youth who experience homelessness each year in the United States.1

Some grew up alone, watching their parents succumb to a life of drugs, abuse and crime. Some followed in their parents’ footsteps. Some did all they could do to escape. Some were kicked out of their homes by their caretakers for poor behavior or revealing their preferred sexual identity or orientation. Some aged out of foster care and had nowhere to go. Some are working tirelessly to combat a substance abuse addiction. Some have mental or physical wounds so deep they need constant care. Some are victims of assault, human trafficking, prostitution and other crimes. Almost all have had to endure freezing cold, blazing heat, and blisters on their feet.

They are the youth of Denver who are experiencing homelessness.

Homeless youth are often an “invisible” population—living in alley ways, behind dumpsters, under bridges, or couch surfing with others until a landlord or friend kicks them out. Youth who experience homelessness are transient, often cautious and afraid, have difficulty trusting adults, and because of that, may be difficult to reach.

The “visible” youth who are experiencing homelessness, due to their age, life inexperience, and vulnerability are often targeted by leaders of human trafficking rings. Largely due to Denver’s temperate climate, beautiful mountains, central airport, and the confluence of all major interstate highways, Denver is situated along one of the main sex trafficking routes in America.2 The Colorado Homeless Youth Action Plan states that, “Thirty percent of homeless youth will be actively recruited for purposes of sexual exploitation and other forms of human trafficking within 48 hours of leaving home.”3

One subset of the homeless youth population that is targeted the most are youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex or questioning (LGBTIQ). When surveyed upon intake, approximately 26% of youth served in Urban Peak’s Shelter and Housing programs self-identified as GLB and 2% self-identified as T or I.

Without intervention and support, the future of youth who are experiencing homelessness may include a life of compromised health, prostitution, drug addiction, criminal activity, welfare dependence, depression, chronic unemployment, and homelessness.

Human service providers face numerous challenges in supporting these youth, including the need for overlapping services in health care, housing, mental health/substance abuse, and education and employment assistance. Urban Peak Denver confronts the challenges of serving this vulnerable population and is dedicated to providing the direct services necessary to help youth transition from the streets to a safe and stable adulthood.

Please, join us in our mission to help youth experiencing homelessness and those at risk of becoming homeless in overcoming the challenges before them. With your support, Urban Peak can provide the youth with a supportive community and the essential services they need to obtain self-sufficiency or a safe life off the streets with assistance.

Together, we can make a difference.

 

[1] Robertson, M. J. & Toro, P. A. (1998). Homeless youth: Research, intervention, and policy. United States Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved June 3, 2005, from http://aspe.hhs.gov/progsys/homeless/symposium/3-Yough.htm.

[2] Lloyd, R. & Orman, A. (2007) Training Manual on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children. CSEC Community Intervention Project, US Department of Justice, Office of Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

[3] Colorado Department of Human Services, Office of Homeless Youth Services, Homeless Youth Action Plan Summary