A ‘Sleep Out’ to end youth homelessness

By Ryan Van Duzer, John Tayer and Chip

In a few days, we’ll be huddled together on the streets of downtown Boulder, with just a thin piece of cardboard as a cushion, for one of our most uncomfortable, yet inspiring, nights of sleep. . . as part of the annual TGTHR Sleep Out.

We look forward to participating in this crazy event every year, on a voluntary basis, because no one should have to sleep outside. However, this is the sad reality of too many young people in our community. Each year, approximately 4.2 million youth and young adults in America find themselves in this predicament of homelessness. From the growing gap between wages and the cost of living, to high housing costs, to family instability, domestic violence, health issues and more, there are myriad reasons why people find themselves homeless and forced to sleep outside – but we can do something about it.

To raise awareness of the challenges faced by homeless youth, TGTHR, a local nonprofit dedicated to ending youth homelessness, will host its 10th Annual Sleep Out Event March 24-26. And we can’t wait! Okay, maybe if it’s snowing and freezing cold, we’d rather wait, but whatever. . . we will be there.

The annual Sleep Out raises funds and awareness of TGTHR’s efforts to end youth homelessness. Hundreds of people, like us, commit to sleeping one night outside, whatever the weather, with only a sleeping bag and winter clothes. It’s a little insight into the harsh realities of street life for homeless youth.

In exchange for the three of us, along with our other ‘sleepers’, roughing it on the streets for a night out, we’re asking you all to read this column, please help us reach our fundraising goal thanks to a generous, heart-warming pledge of support for TGTHR. And know that you won’t be the only ones helping us meet the challenge, as TGTHR’s Sleep Out has raised over $900,000 in the nine years we’ve been doing it. These resources go a long way in helping TGTHR empower transformations and work to end youth homelessness.

Every morning after Sleep Out, as we wake up with frost on our sleeping bags and indications of a sleepless night on our faces (okay, Ryan is still smiling, but you get the picture), we’re overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude that we can return to our warm homes for a bite to eat and a shower. We choose to do this just one night a year, but millions of young people across our country don’t have that luxury – they have no choice but to do it every night of the year.

This year, Sleep Out will begin at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 24 at First United Methodist Church in Boulder (1421 Spruce St.) and end at 7 a.m. the following morning. If you can’t join us in person, TGTHR has also hosted a virtual Sleep Out for Saturday, March 26 – you choose the time and location!

Let’s show homeless youth in our community that we are committed to their future and committed to ending the intractable problem of youth homelessness.

Ryan Van Duzer is an adventure cyclist, John Tayer is president and CEO of the Boulder Chamber, and Chip is CEO of the Downtown Boulder Partnership.

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