Thank you for joining us for a tour of The PLACE facilities. Your curiosity and pursuit of knowledge helps spread the word about the realities of youth experiencing homelessness in our community and the solutions that provide opportunities in the future.
This space is designed to provide additional information about the programs and services at The PLACE as well as some of the background information that informs our approach.
While other agencies in the community assist adults and families experiencing homelessness, The PLACE alone provides secular, wraparound programming and services exclusively for youth experiencing homelessness.
The PLACE has operated a 20-bed shelter for homeless youth aged 15-20 for decades. Youth are assigned a case manager who supports them while navigating through both The PLACE and other community services.
For youth over 21 or those who are not comfortable with the shelter environment, The PLACE has a Street Outreach team. This team frequents the areas where homeless youth stay, building relationships and breaking down trust barriers. The Outreach team is equipped with vital supplies – from clean socks to HIV testing – to respond to the immediate needs of the youth they encounter.
The Outreach Team also staffs The Drop-In Center, which opened as an independent location in December of 2021. It serves as an access point for services, a respite from the harsh realities of the street, and a source of community and connection.
The PLACE operates four housing programs, which vary in duration and case management support depending on youth needs. It is in this space that the PLACE has most grown in the last 5 years. Because of new funding streams through federal programs, we have been able to more than double the amount of funding and staff serving youth in their pursuit of affordable housing options.
The need for PLACE’s services is growing, not just in terms of the number of youth who are falling into homelessness, but also in the level of support they require to exit their situation. The rate at which young people are disclosing mental health concerns as a contributing factor to their homelessness has increased to 70% among the youth served last fiscal year. It is not enough to simply find places for youth to sleep off the street, they also need a place for healing and a place to belong. With our existing and expanding services, The PLACE is where youth can explore their full potential.
The PLACE’s serves youth ages 15-24 who are at-risk of or currently experiencing homelessness. Data from the Built for Zero initiative within the Pikes Peak Continuum of Care shows that in El Paso County during the first six months of 2023 (Jan-June), 183 young people were newly identified as experiencing homelessness while only 126 young people were placed into a permanent housing solution. The need is growing faster than the community can respond.
We meet youth where they are and provide them with the resources and relationships they need today to overcome real life challenges and fulfill their promise for a healthy, productive and self-sufficient tomorrow.
The PLACE’s approach to serving youth experiencing homelessness is to integrate principles of Positive Youth Development, Trauma-Informed Care, harm reduction, motivational interviewing, restorative justice, intensive case management services, innovative programs along a continuum of care, and collaborations with other community providers and resources. Services are designed to create safety, structure, belonging and healthy options for runaway and homeless youth. By facilitating healing and recovery, developing capacity for leadership and independence, and promoting social and emotional well-being, The PLACE is investing in lasting solutions that provide so much more than shelter. This approach involves youth in every step of the process as they access vital services and progress from shelter to family reunification or a home of their own.
The PLACE does operate as a Housing First model but it is not housing only.
Housing First is an approach to serving folks experiencing homelessness that prioritizes providing immediate housing solutions, thus ending their shelter crisis and serving as a platform from which they can pursue personal goals and improve their quality of life. This approach is guided by the belief that people need basic necessities like food and a place to live before attending to other priorities, such as getting a job, budgeting properly, or attending to substance use issues. Additionally, Housing First is based on the understanding that choice is valuable in housing selection and supportive service participation, and that exercising that choice is likely to make a person more successful in remaining housed and improving their life.
While many youth are referred to The PLACE through partners in the community like Springs Rescue Mission and the Dept of Human Services, overwhelmingly, youth find us through word of mouth. Youth who are already engaged in our programs or who have crossed paths with our work in the past share their experience with other youth who are at risk of homelessness.
Youth receive medical and mental health services at an on-site clinic or through referrals to partner agencies. A Healthcare Coordinator supports the agency-wide response to connecting youth to appropriate care. Through a partnership with Peak Vista, mental health clinicians are embedded in the shelter and outreach programs.
The PLACE partners with other youth service providers, particularly systems of foster care, human services, corrections, workforce development, schools, and with the support center for LGBTQ+ youth. These partnerships ensure a variety of appropriate services and supports are available to youth.
The PLACE works closely with the Pikes Peak Continuum of Care and the Colorado Division of Housing to align goals and current evaluation benchmarks. Our data and evaluation coordinator works at the statewide level for HMIS integration for youth programming, and we contract with the Colorado Behavioral Health Administration on the SAMSHA Healthy Transitions grant focused on mental health treatment and services supporting youth living in homelessness who also live with severe mental illnesses or substance use disorder.
The PLACE collaborates with Peak Vista Community Health Services, Diversus, and a private licensed practitioner to create behavioral health support, therapeutic services, and access to psychiatric care. We intend these collaborations to grow and elevate.