Public-Private Partnerships Key to Tackling Youth Homelessness
Bank of America partners with Urban Peak
What if, at the age of 18, you suddenly found yourself without any adult support? Where do you sleep at night? How are you going to eat? How will you get to school? Meet Jethro. He was kicked out of his father’s house because of his gender identity and quickly wound up homeless. He lived with a friend to get by – until he found Urban Peak, a nonprofit that provides services and resources to help youth exit homelessness in the Denver Metro area and Colorado Springs. Jethro began participating in job readiness trainings on finance management, customer service and food service. When it came time to find a job, he chose Peak Thrift, a social enterprise of Urban Peak that provides essential job training and a supportive work environment at a community thrift store.
As we approach National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, it is important to remember that youth homelessness continues to persist as a visible and growing problem in Denver. According to Urban Peak’s 2016 Impact Report, one in five youth experiencing homelessness in the Denver Metro area are living on the streets, and the rest reside in shelters or transitional housing. These kids are more likely to experience abuse, engage in high-risk behavior and develop severe mental health and nutritional problems than those living off the streets. Living in unsafe, temporary situations with little guidance and support – much like the one Jethro experienced – also severely affects one’s ability to attend school and gain employment.
Addressing issues that are fundamentally connected to homeless youths’ economic mobility – like access to workforce development opportunities and quality education — is a critical component to building a pathway to economic progress for our city. With a productive workforce in place, the Denver economy can grow sustainably, which is why private businesses should take interest in partnering with nonprofits that are driving local solutions to help youth exit homelessness and gain independence.
A cornerstone of these efforts is Bank of America’s partnership with Urban Peak. Peak Thrift’s operations, providing job opportunities to youth like Jethro, are made possible, in large part, by a recent $200,000 flexible funding grant through the bank’s Neighborhood Builders award. As traditional nonprofits evolve to social enterprise models, many are increasingly looking for ways to generate revenue while continuing to change their communities for the better. Peak Thrift achieves both of these goals: 100 percent of Peak Thrift’s proceeds fund Urban Peak’s programs, 80 percent of youth trained and employed demonstrated skills gained and four out of five Youth Associates maintained employment for six months despite struggling with the physical and mental trauma associated with their unstable living situations. Thanks to these skills learned, youth are prepared to enter the job market and work towards a brighter future.
The importance of public-private partnerships like this goes beyond funding benefits, creating a lasting impact on the infrastructure that helps Denver’s economy thrive for every resident. As a business leader, Bank of America’s investment in Urban Peak stems from the knowledge that helping youth leave homelessness behind isn’t just about finding them a safe home off the streets – it’s a pathway to a better financial future for that individual and the economic vitality of our city. We need more private businesses to not only make a financial investment, but to give their guidance, time and resources to organizations like Urban Peak to continue to build our city to be the best it can be socially, economically and culturally.