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Habitat ECS | Helping Homeless Teenagers

March 10, 2019

Habitat ECS | Our group cooking lunch for the homeless youth at Urban Peak.

Today our ECS group went up to Denver. There we met with Kerry Wrenick, State Coordinator for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, at the Colorado Department of Education. We talked with her for half an hour about why so many teenagers are homeless and how the state is helping them using the Mckinney-Vento Act, which guarantees homeless teenagers the right to enroll, attend, and succeed in school. Kerry talked about issues that homeless teenagers experience that keep them from attending high school. Many students however face issues when trying to receive education. These include not having a permanent home, not meeting certain enrollment requirements, not having have a mode of transportation to get them to school, a lack of school supplies, or they are in poor health.

After talking with Kerry for a little bit, we headed across the street to Urban Peak, an organization that focuses on homeless youth ages 15 to 20 who do not have a family or home to go to. Urban Peak has many different programs that focus on the mental, physical, and social well being of homeless teenagers. Their programs consist of a daytime drop in center program, an overnight shelter program, a street outreach program, and a supportive housing program. We visited the overnight shelter where there are currently 40 youth under the age of 20 living. There we met with Tamar Berner, who is the community engagement officer for Urban Peak. We received a tour of the shelter and got to see what a youth shelter looked like. Inside the shelter, there were two different dormitories crammed with 20 beds each. There was a small common area with a table and a few scattered chairs, as well as a few small offices. We talked about why some of the youth were there; some were kicked out of their house because of their sexual identity, others left their house because of violence, or were over the age of 18 and forced to leave the foster care system. We learned how Urban Peak is helping them to find more permanent living situations. After our tour, we went into the kitchen and cooked lunch for the youth. Although we only heated up frozen chicken nuggets and tater-tots, we had a great time doing it. It was so much fun to watch the youth laugh and joke over the lunch tables and see the bonds that they have formed while living in the shelter.

Overall today was an amazing experience. It opened our eyes to see how people our age can lead such a different life than we do. Before our ECS started, we put together little toiletry kits with our 5th grade buddies to bring up and give to the homeless youth at Urban Peak. The memories that I took away from this experience will stay with me and motivate me to help find a solution for teenagers experiencing homelessness.

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Habitat ECS | Our group cooking lunch for the homeless youth at Urban Peak.