Institutional brick building with trees in front
Adams County will soon open its first youth shelter at Lipan Street and West 88th Avenue in Thornton. Credit: 17th Judicial District Attorney's Office

Community Reach Center, DA’s office, Thornton PD to help mitigate ‘time on street’

Thanks to a multi-agency effort, Thornton will soon be home to a shelter for displaced youth. 

Operators say the 10-bed facility will provide life-changing help for many, even as it addresses only a fraction of the existing needs.

Community Reach Center will run the shelter at Lipan Street and West 88th Ave. and it expects to open the facility in about three months. 

Community Reach is partnering with the 17th Judicial District Attorney’s office and the Thornton Police Department on the project, which was approved by the Thornton City Council  Sept. 12. 

The numbers of displaced youth are on the rise nationwide. According to Voices of Youth Count, an estimated 4.2 million youth and young adults experience homelessness in the United States. One in 30 people ages 13 to 17 experience homelessness each year, according to the estimates. 

“We’re trying to mitigate time on the street as much as possible,” said Mike Marsico, vice president of Community Reach Center’s clinical operations. “These are youth who are really in this limbo where they need a little bit of time somewhere.”

The shelter’s end goal is to help young people secure permanent housing and reunite with their families or guardians, if possible.

Youth who will stay at the shelter cannot have been involved in violent crime but will come from a variety of backgrounds, Marsico said. They may have been asked to leave the family home for behavioral reasons, or may have parents undergoing temporary financial, housing or other issues who may need short-term, alternate care for their child. The youth may be referred to Community Reach Center by child protective services, police or a school. 

“There are so many avenues,” Marsico said. “We’re looking at kids who are at risk of not having a solid place to live. And some shelters or programs aren’t suitable for kids.

“This is a need, and we have overwhelming community support.”

Community effort

Getting the shelter approved took the work of multiple agencies and state legislators. Thornton Police Chief Terrence Gordon first approached District Attorney Brian Mason about the need for an Adams County youth shelter in 2021. With Mason’s urging, state legislators passed a youth shelter bill in 2022, opening funding options. 

The District Attorney’s Office then applied for American Recovery Act grant funding through an Adams County Board of Commissioners program, securing $1.2 million to help fund the shelter. 

The future shelter site previously housed a nursing home and rehabilitation center, so it already has the space and amenities needed for a youth shelter. In addition to lodging, the shelter will provide therapy, food service, laundry, recreation and other services. Community Reach Center plans to build from there. 

“We’re taking a holistic view,” Marsico said. “We’re not just going to provide three hots and a cot. We really want enrichment, and to teach youth how to advocate for themselves and avoid dangerous situations. We want to make sure they know they have a resource and safety with us.”

Because demand for services is high and the length of time young people will need to stay varies, a single bed at the 10-bed facility could provide rest and shelter for 10 different kids each month.

“The need is always gonna outweigh the programs that exist,” Marsico said, adding the only similar facility in the Denver area is downtown’s Urban Peak. “This is a brand new program for Adams County.”

DA Mason expressed gratitude to all the agencies who worked together to make the shelter a reality. 

“This is a decision rooted in public safety and crime prevention and I’m very grateful to everyone who helped make it happen,” he said. “Youth experiencing homelessness or displacement are more likely to become victims of crime or to commit crimes themselves. We desperately need a youth shelter for displaced youth in this community and now we’re going to have one.”

Chief Gordon said he is proud of the teamwork that went into the project.

“‘Necessary and critical, but non-existent’ is too often the case when it comes to essential services for kids and families,” he said. “But instead of talking about what needs to be done, the partners in Adams County and the 17th are getting it done — one step at a time.”

Community Reach Center is a non-profit mental health provider with multiple locations in the north metro area.

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