Urban Peak Denver Transitions Youth From Street to Staff

Photograph of a smiling young woman.Annelle’s parents separated when she was just a year old. As a teenager, she bounced back and forth between her parents until she eventually ended up living with her dad and stepmother in Aspen, CO.

"I was like Cinderella. I had to wait on people hand and foot. I would go to school, come home, clean the house, make dinner, put the food away, clean the dishes, and do all the laundry," Annelle recalls.

When Annelle was 16, her father decided that she’d be better off living with her mother in Denver. Annelle felt abandoned and turned to the wrong crowd. She began using heroin and methamphetamine in addition to marijuana and alcohol. She hitchhiked around the country, moving from California to Arizona to New Mexico and eventually, back to Colorado.

“When you’re strung out, you don’t really go anywhere,” Annelle points out. “I would be down in the mall area where you could hustle money and buy drugs, and that’s where STAR outreach workers really got to know me.”

After struggling with drug abuse and feeling alone, Annelle decided to enroll in STAR, a transitional living program funded by the Family and Youth Services Bureau in Urban Peak, CO. During Annelle’s first 24 hours in the program, staff worked with her parents to help them relate to each other more effectively and improve their communication skills. As a resident of the program’s 17-unit apartment complex, Annelle started undergoing group therapy, substance abuse treatment, and counseling.

Annelle’s progress earned her a position as the program’s outreach counselor. Now, she’s working on strengthening her relationship with her parents. She lives in her own apartment and works with other young people who are on the streets, helping them to realize their self-worth and live a more constructive life.