Fairview High School’s principal Don Stensrud won’t be in black tie when he attends one of Boulder’s biggest fundraisers this year. Nor will his colleague, Boulder High School’s Terry Gilach.
Instead, the two principals will sport their warmest winter clothes this Thursday, staying outside all night to raise money and awareness for Attention Homes, Boulder County’s only emergency shelter and support center for homeless youth.
The third annual Sleep Out for Homeless Youth is this Thursday in downtown Boulder on the lawn between Attention Homes and partner organization First United Methodist Church. About 100 participants – community leaders, business people, students and others – will participate. Each is allowed a sleeping bag and flashlight, but otherwise will be vulnerable to the elements and urban environment.
With a forecast low of 19º, participants are going to need every layer they can muster. For Mr. Stensrud, braving the night is worthwhile.
“Every one of my 11 years at Fairview, we have had students who need Attention Homes,” Mr. Stensrud says. “No one likes to talk about youth homelessness but it’s a real issue here in our community. Attention Homes keeps our most vulnerable young people safe and warm and feeling cared for, and that makes all the difference.”
At least 1,500 young people in Colorado won’t have a safe place to sleep tonight, and more than 200 of those kids are here in Boulder County. For 48 years, Attention Homes has provided at-risk, runaway and homeless teens the care and attention they need to transition into more stable situations.
“Many of our students are dealing with poverty and serious family crises on a daily basis,” Boulder High’s Mr. Gilach says. “When a student is couch surfing or scrambling for meals, it’s almost impossible to get inspired about learning. Attention Homes makes those situations more manageable and shows students a way forward.”
This is the third year Mr. Stensrud has taken part in the event. He and the FSH administrative team, including Jay Scott, Rose Lupinacci, and Sarah DiGiacomo, are leading the fundraising this year with nearly $10,000 already pledged.
“The staff of Attention Homes has changed the lives of so many FHS students over the years and the FHS Admin Team is trying to pay back that debt by raising money to keep this amazing place of hope working for years to come,” explain the FHS administrators on their fundraising page.
This Thursday, the Sleep Out participants will gain just a glimpse of what homeless students experience, contending with Colorado’s winter weather and the uncertainties of living on the streets. That kind of first-hand empathy illuminates why the work of Attention Homes is so urgent and powerful.