For more information about ALLY Youth Services, call 720-339-2559 or visit allyyouthservices.org.
An organization that aids Boulder's homeless and at-risk youth will become homeless itself Thursday.
ALLY Youth Services was founded in March 2012 to offer mentoring and services for 18-24-year-olds beyond what's offered at a typical homeless shelter. ALLY has been housed at Pine Street Church, but the lease is up Thursday. ALLY officials say they are searching for a new space to continue operations.
In a state where 3,000 to 4,000 people in the 12-24 age range are homeless at any one time, according to ALLY, the organization's goal has been to offer one-on-one mentoring coupled with a trusting relationship. ALLY has opened its doors to such people from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and anywhere from five to 30 youth have sought out the group's services on any given night, according to ALLY.
One of the major issues for the homeless is the separation between them and the non-homeless community.
"There is so much stigma attached to being homeless," ALLY Support Manager Shane Wyenn said. "A lot of people see them as scum and that they are out there on the streets because it was their fault, but while that can be the case, it is mostly not the case."
ALLY's goal has been to help close that divide, to get people to look past the backpacks and dirty fingernails and see these individuals as real people who are simply trying to make it in the world.
"Bridging the gap between the two communities is so important; it requires simple communication and conversation," Wyenn said. "Time and time again it is really hard for a youth to get off the street themselves. They need support and a family, people who care about them."
ALLY is succeeding at its goal, according to one youth who has used the center's services.
"It is a really great organization," said Taylor Noyes, 21. "They help people like myself who are unfortunately on the streets, with showers and food and warm clothes, general necessities we don't get access to."
Noyes, who estimated he has visited the center 3-4 times a week, said he ended up at ALLY after his identity was stolen, leading to the recent loss of his home.
"ALLY is not just a resource for people on the street to survive and sustain," Noyes said, "it is also a resource to give you the opportunities and means to succeed to give you a better fiscal quality of life.
"They give you a second chance."
Even though ALLY is seeking a second chance in terms of a physical location, it will not go away completely.
"We even visit youth in jail and make sure they have what they need and when they are in court so they understand what is going on," said Anna Maria Pirone, ALLY's executive director. "Eighteen to 24-year-olds are in a very transitional development stage, they need a lot of help and attention."
Pirone and co-founder Christopher Senesi went to the ALLY model after two years with the Boulder chapter of Standup for Kids.
In addition to the one-on-one interaction, Pirone said, ALLY tries to help youth find jobs in partnership with Workforce Boulder County (through the Workforce Investment Act) and Connecting Colorado, the state workforce center.
Noyes is thankful to ALLY for helping him get started in a program at the workforce center designed to get him an internship and, hopefully, a job.
"This program is helping youth get off the street, and we need funding, space, supplies -- anything that can be provided to keep this organization going," Noyes said. "This is an organization that is truly helping out kids and it needs to stay and it needs to be able to be cultivated."