Night Out to End Youth Homelessness

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Dozens of people ditched their warm beds to sleep outside on the cold concrete in downtown Colorado Springs overnight. It's a camp out to help homeless teens. It's all part of Urban Peak's Night Out to End Youth Homelessness.

The 12-hour event took place at the First United Methodist Church on North Nevada from 6 p.m. Thursday to 6 a.m. Friday morning. This is the second year for the event in Colorado Springs.

About 40 to 50 people camped out on the sidewalk. They all represent just a fraction of the number of homeless kids and teens we have on our streets every night. On any given night, about 100 young people in our community are sleeping outside or in shelters.

Rima Baliga camped out all night with a group of medical students from the Colorado Springs branch of the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

"It really made me think of how these teens are being productive and how they are able to go to school and still do their homework, even when they have to sleep in these conditions as night," she said.

Tents are not allowed during the night out. People are using sleeping bags, cardboard boxes, and tarps.

Erik Wallace, the associate dean for the university camped all night too. 11 News asked him why he wanted to bring his students.

“I want to make sure that our students, as they become future physicians, have empathy towards those who are resource limited," he said.

Wallace said he his students put a toe, not a foot, into the life of being homeless.

“I had no concern that someone might come by and try and steal my things and try and assault me. But if you are someone by yourself on the street, I think you have those fears on a daily basis.”

We talked to a minister who took part in this event last year and said it was about 3 degrees. It's a little warmer this time around. He's taking part again because he wants to raise awareness.

"This is one night," said Todd Spencer, minister to youth and young adults at First Methodist United Church. "We have homeless teens right down the street that are not very far, people that walk up and down our street, our alley, or sidewalks or sometimes are in our church. They're out every night. So one night is probably doable."

The volunteers have sponsors for their night out to help raise money for homeless youth. The goal is to raise $50,000 for Urban Peak.

Executive director of Urban Peak, Shawna Kemppainen, said Friday morning that the group raised $25,000, which is about 500 nights of shelter for homeless teens.

“When we reach our goal of $50,000, we will be providing 1,000 nights of shelter for youth. Urban Peak gives about 7,000 nights of shelter per year, so this is a big help,” said Kemppainen.

Urban Peak says it costs about $50 per night to provide shelter for homeless youth.

Kemppainen said, “So when people are giving to this cause. It’s give the youth a chance to get off the streets and start building their future.”

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