Far from lost

Attention Homes helps extraordinary youth who deserve a fighting chance |

One story you might have heard:  Homeless teenager are on the loose and on the rise in our community: hoodlums, drug addicts, prostitutes and thieves. They’ve taken up residence on the Pearl Street Mall and beyond, begging for money, harassing strangers, asking for trouble. Somebody ought to do something about it.

Here’s the reality:  Young people in large numbers throughout our community are confronting desperate circumstances beyond their control. Runaway, abandoned, displaced, abused or deeply troubled, they lack traditional support systems and turn to the streets for what they perceive is a safer place to live. Sadly, they quickly realize it’s not.

Thankfully, somebody is doing something about it. Attention Homes is a 47-year-old local organization with an impressive track record of helping teens cope with and transcend serious crises, one youth at a time.

The organization operates the only emergency overnight shelter for teens in Boulder County as well as offers an array of successful programs that encourage and teach the life skills necessary for an independent future. Eighty-one percent of kids who use Attention Homes’ overnight shelter ultimately transition to a stable housing situation and when possible, reunify with family.

“These kids are talented, smart and able young people who have suffered during a critical time of their development,” says Claire Clurman of Attention Homes. “Their courage to leave an abusive and unsafe home and ask for help is a sign of  strength. Understanding their deeper issues is critical to helping them rise above their circumstances – circumstances that would overwhelm even the sturdiest adults.”

“Homeless” is a problematic word. It implies a negative stereotype, a bleakness that’s hard to get around. It instantly zaps the humanity out of any conversation, blurring people – who they are, where they’ve been, what they might become.

Attention Homes takes a different approach, attending to youths as individuals with a skill set to build upon. It demonstrates that investing in its youth gives a community hope and optimism. To support them with education, employment training and resource referrals gives these youth the opportunity to achieve their potential.

Take Anna, a kind and quiet teenager. Her mom’s new boyfriend was abusive, volatile and moving in. Anna had no choice but to leave. Three days of no shower, no address and no money suddenly made this successful young student “homeless.” She was considering an offer for paid sex.

Through its street outreach program, an Attention Homes volunteer encountered Anna and was able to convince her to come to the shelter. There she soaked up the attention, structure and safety like a sponge. Within a few weeks, Anna transitioned into a long-term foster situation and was back in school.

“This work makes our community safer. It’s an investment in our future and it’s the right thing to do,” Clurman says.

Attention Homes knows youth. They look beyond appearances and bravado to get to the heart of the matter and start the healing process. It is asking the rest of the community to open its eyes a little wider this month, too.  Because with help, attention and structure, it can find lost teens and save from a life of chronic homelessness.

November is Colorado Homeless & Runaway Youth Awareness Month.
Here are a few simple ways to participate this week:

There are numerous ways to make a difference first hand. More than 400 individuals provide 6,000-plus hours of service to Attention Homes each year. Email contactAH@attentionhomes.org for more information.

On Wednesday, November 6, enjoy a meal at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse (28th and Canyon) and if you print and bring this flier, the restaurant will donate 15% of your food sales to the Attention Homes.

On Thursday, November 7, Attention Homes is hosting a film screening of Sugar, based on the true story of a young homeless girl coping with PTSD and the demons she must face when reunited with family.

Hope Boulder Church, 4705 Baseline Road in Boulder
6 p.m. (program begins at 6:30 p.m.)
Light refreshments and hors d’oeuvres
Suggested donation of $5

Light your front porch with a green bulb throughout November to remind and initiate conversations with others about homeless and Runaway Youth awareness Month. Pick up your green light bulb at Attention Homes, 1443 Spruce Street with a $5 suggested donation.

Or donate your “status” on your favorite social networking site – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or Pinterest – to raise awareness. Share this post and direct your friends to AttentionHomes.org to learn how to help.

Attention Homes is our November Featured Friend.  Next week we’ll cover the organization’s Sleep Out event, coming up November 14.