COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorad — A few dozen volunteers are spending the night outdoors in Colorado Springs to help raise money and awareness about youth homelessness in the community. The Night Out Project is taking place at First United Methodist Church downtown and will benefit the homeless youth shelter The PLACE.
Executive director Shawna Kemppainen said that more than 300 young people in El Paso County experience homelessness each month. Half of them are unsheltered.
This is the seventh year for the Night Out Project. Money is raised when donors sponsor someone online who is sleeping outside.
Prior to setting up camp for the night, the participants got to enjoy a warm soup dinner prepared by volunteers from the church. Staff members from the PLACE took part in a panel discussion and participants also took part in role-playing exercises to better understand the emotional trauma that homeless youth experience.
"There is no need for a young person to experience homelessness," Kemppainen said. "There are plenty of resources and there solutions that work. We just have to be patient, accept youth for who they are and walk alongside of them."
It costs $108 per night to house one homeless youth at the PLACE. Kemppainen said their goal is to reach $45,000 by the end of the fundraiser.