“It changed me 360.”
Kadejah Venable’s experience with Urban Peak, a Denver nonprofit that helps young people experiencing or facing imminent homelessness, was life-altering for the 24-year-old mom.
What had become a life on the streets, with regular check-ins with a probation officer, has transformed into a situation where Venable has her own place and now holds a job with Urban Peak as a peer navigator. In between, she lived in the organization’s shelter in south Denver and then in one of Urban Peak’s 68 units it offers in three apartment buildings in the city.
“It changed my life all around and showed me how much I need community in my life,” she said.
Kelsey Antun, assistant director of programs at Urban Peak, said Venable is one of approximately 1,100 youth between the ages of 15 and 24 that the organization serves annually.
“For our young folks, so many of them do a good job of blending in and not being seen,” Antun said. “They hide themselves pretty well.”
But their needs are very real, and Urban Peak represents for them a “place to start” amid a disrupted and sometimes traumatic life — one often without stable housing or job prospects, she said.
“They are still trying to figure out who they are,” Antun said.
Urban Peak, founded in 1988, is a part of The Denver Post Community Foundation’s Season to Share program. Besides its short- and long-term apartment units, the organization runs a 40-person homeless shelter on South Acoma Street that addresses young people’s more immediate needs.
It also has a drop-in center just north of downtown Denver where 40 to 50 youth swing through on a daily basis. The center serves hot meals and provides lockers to keep belongings safe. It also has laundry facilities and showers and young people can use the center’s Stout Street location as a place to pick up mail.
The drop-in center also has a medical services coordinator, and a dental van pays a visit every other week. Antun said educational services are offered, along with classes on life skills and employment.
“We try to bring as many services as we can in-house to connect those dots,” she said.
Antun said Urban Peak doesn’t just wait for young people to come to them. The organization, with 85 employees, also has a street outreach arm that goes to the places — libraries or the bus station, for example — where young people without a home tend to congregate in Denver.
Venable said it was a relief coming out of the shadows with Urban Peak’s help. She hopes more people facing similar challenges get the same assistance.
“This is a population that a lot of people don’t want to acknowledge,” she said. “It’s something we need to put an emphasis on more.”
Address: 2100 Stout St., Denver, CO 80205
In operation since: 1988
Number of employees: 85 full time
Annual budget: $5.7 million
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