Teens sleep outside to raise awareness, money for homeless initiative

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FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- Teenagers in Fort Collins will be sleeping outside in temperatures rivaling their age on Saturday night. The goal is to raise awareness of homelessness in the city and they're getting some helps from adults in the process.

For the past 11 years, Hal Chorpenning, senior pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church in Fort Collins, has been happy to open the front yard to cardboard homes.

“Tomorrow morning, when we have guests or visitors that come to church, they’ll be like, ‘What’s with all the boxes in the front yard?” Chorpenning said with a laugh.

The purpose of the event is to do more than raise eyebrows.

“Raise both funds and awareness for the Homelessness Prevention Initiative, here in Fort Collins,” Chorpenning said.

The Homeless Prevention Initiative works to keep all families from falling into homelessness by providing services such as emergency rental assistance.

“We are there to catch them before they fall and prevent all of that pain and heartache of something like that happening,” said Amanda Hodge, executive director of Homeless Prevention Initiative.

Teens from many faiths took part in the 11th annual vigil and sleep out, and they’re raising meaningful money in the process.

“Last year we raised $12,600, which was enough through HPI to prevent 42 families from falling into homelessness," said Noah Harrison, a 17-year-old organizer.

Harrison also recruited State Sen. John Kafalas, who represents District 14, to take part this year. He said the current lack of affordable housing in the city makes the event timely and critical.

“The average rent in Fort Collins, I think, these days is about $1,260 for a two-bedroom apartment," Kafalas said. "The vacancy rate is about 1-2 percent and all of those things combined are making housing really out of reach for a lot of working families.”

It’s why he’s happy to crash a lawn with some teens.

“It’s important because they’re the ones that are going to be the future leaders," Kafalas said. "They’re the ones who are the leaders now in their own way.”​

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