Getting It Done: Denver Coffee Shop Employs Homeless Youth & Young Adults

This community youth project is demonstrative of what is valued versus what is needed.

Purple Door roastery employs young people experiencing homelessness in an effort to empower them to reclaim their lives through supportive and meaningful employment in the specialty coffee industry.

http://sprudge.com/new-opportunities-for-denvers-homeless-youth-at-purple-doors-roastery-117055.html

Of Purple Door’s 18 young adult employees over the past 4 years, 17of them have successfully exited homelessness.

That's a 94% success rate. A 94% return on investment. A 94% reduction in young adult homelessness recidivism.

This community youth project is demonstrative of what is valued versus what is needed.

If you asked your husband or wife or partner to go to the store. Because you were making French toast. And you needed bread, milk and eggs.

And that love of your life came home with a rake.

You would stare at him or her and say, "What the hell? Really. I told you what I needed to make breakfast. Not clean up the backyard. Forget it. I'll do it myself. "

But he or she said, "It was on sale. It's a great value for that price. What's the big deal?"

You would storm out of the house. And would be thinking to yourself. What a dumbass.

That's what it's like for our homeless youth. When they stare at the things we are doing in our projects and programs to help them.

Things that are of value to us. But not things that are of need to them. There's a difference.

When we are developing and implementing community youth projects, we have traditionally valued the following in the context of whether or not a youth project is being effective:

Activity. Meetings. Committees. Youth service providers. Referrals. Events. Fundraisers. Galas. Brochures. Marketing.

But are these the activities that our homeless youth need.

Purple Door's community youth project is prioritizing what homeless youth need as opposed to what our community values as being an effective project.

We often value lots of unrelated activity. The more busy we are, the more we believe we are being effective in our youth projects.

Homeless youth need simple structure. Simple routines. It helps them feel safe and secure.

We value meetings. The more meetings we have, the more we believe we are being effective in our youth projects.

Homeless youth need a plan. Goals. Deadlines. Standards. Expectations. It helps them feel like their life is meaningful and going somewhere.

We value youth service providers. The more youth service providers we have, the more we believe we are being effective in our youth projects.

Homeless youth need the community. Family. Friends. School. Family reunifications. Host homes. Part-time jobs. Coffee shops. Small businesses. Yards to cut grass. Driveways to shovel snow. Taco Bells and McDonalds' to hand out food. And get a paycheck in return.

Place to keep their belongings. Clothes. Laundry. Haircuts. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. Shower. Dental appointments. Structure. Routine.

An adult to show up at school for teacher conferences. Prescriptions when they get sick. Gynecological appointments. An adult to show up at court hearings on their behalf. Rides to their activities. Discussions about healthy relationships and dating. A dinner table to talk about their day.

And maybe a few times to just be a kid. Have fun. Go to the mall. Play video games. Eat pizza and watch a movie.

Youth service providers cannot get all of this done for homeless youth without our community. But our community can get all of the done for our homeless youth without youth service providers.  

We lean on what we value. So we lean on youth service providers. When we should lean of what youth need. So we lean on community.

We value intake referrals. The more referrals we make to each other, the more we believe we are being effective in our youth projects.

Homeless youth need one time to tell their story during intake. To one trusted person. One organization. One set of paperwork. It helps them feel protected by the adults who will take care of their traumatized life.

We value intake assessments. The more assessments we conduct with them, the more we believe we are being effective in our youth projects.

Homeless youth need a trusted conversation. Dialogue. Discussions. Talks. Banter. It makes them feel like a whole person. Not someone who the adults are trying to assess for eligibility into their projects.

We value fundraisers. The more fundraisers we conduct, the more we believe we are being effective in our youth projects.

Homeless youth need a permanent home. It makes them feel stable. So they care focus on school, getting a job, eating pizza and watching a movie with their friends. Being a kid. Being safe.

We value events. The more events we hold, the more we believe we are being effective in our youth projects.

Homeless youth need a job. It makes them feel empowered. Self-reliant. Independent. Feeling that they are contributing to their own success in life. As opposed to taking handouts.

It's not about doing the things that the adults believe is valuable in their adult success in a youth project. It's about doing the things that the youth believe is needed in their youth success in a youth project.

See the difference?

So the next time you're struggling with whether or not take on an activity. Take on a task. Take on an endeavor. Take on a priority. Take on a project.

Ask yourself this question:

Is it what young people need? Or is it just something adults value?

The power of choice. Choose wisely.