About one in five kids runs away from home at some point before turning 18. Once on the streets, kids can fall prey to sexual exploitation rather quickly. That’s according to new research from Attention Homes, a group that helps homeless kids in Boulder and Broomfield counties, which estimates that about 200 teenagers are living on the streets there.
Now, a new homeless shelter aimed specifically at young people in the Boulder area is hoping to serve kids as young as 12 if the state will permit it. For the time being, it will be small—just a dozen kids at night and about 25 during limited daytime hours, notes the Daily Camera. The group is working with churches to handle any overflow in the effort to offer warm beds, food, clothing, showers, and access to communication, such as the Internet—along with counseling services and possibly medical care and legal aid. Joy Eckstine, executive director of Boulder’s Carriage House for adult homeless people, sees youth stopping in regularly. The young girls, she says, are sometimes propositioned by older men, who might propose trading “sex for protection or a place to stay.”
Meanwhile, in Denver, the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless just celebrated its 25th anniversary. When the organization began, it had a staff of three and a budget of just $60,000. Today, it employs 450 people and has a budget of $35 million to serve more than 16,000 people a year, reports the Denver Business Journal. Coalition director and CEO John Parvensky expresses some frustration that the number of homeless families is higher than when the organization started out. The reasons: rising population, a lack of affordable housing, a mental-health system that has “gotten worse, not better,” and changing funding priorities over the years.
Still, halfway through Denver’s 10-year plan to end homelessness, there has been significant progress. The number of chronically homeless people is down markedly, and panhandling is rarer on the 16th Street Mall, points out The Denver Post.