For Homeless Youth, Peak Thrift Offers Connections, Job Skills

Listen Now
<p>(Hart Van Denburg/CPR News)</p>
<p>In a blackboard near the cash register, Ashley Moore starts listing items Peak Thrift is looking for from folks who want to drop off items at the store on Pecos Street in Denver, Friday, Feb. 26, 2016.</p>

Many homeless teens have dealt with rejection, especially by their parents. But, in Denver, some young adults are learning to re-engage with people by working at a new second-hand store.

Peak Thrift, which opened in late January in north Denver, employs young adults who are homeless or at risk of being homeless. It's run by Urban Peak, a non-profit that supports homeless youth.

Misty Nicole, who is transgender, started working at Peak Thrift shortly after it opened in late January. She's 21 and recently moved into a subsidized apartment.

"I literally had been sleeping out on the streets for the last three years," she said.

At Peak Thrift, Nicole said she learns skills like customer service. And the money -- about $8 an hour -- doesn't hurt either. If she does well, she can become a sales associate and make somewhere between $9 and $11 an hour.

"I've just made it so far. I never thought I would get housed, I never thought I'd have a job like this," she said.

Chris Venable, who runs education and employment at Urban Peak, told Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner that they considered a opening a coffee shop, food cart and even a screen printing shop.

"There was too much overhead cost or not enough opportunity for youth," he said.

They finally settled on a thrift shop after University of Denver business students helped with feasibility studies, Venable said. The goal is to teach customer service, cash register, and shelf-stocking skills over six to 12 months that could be used in jobs in the hospitality and restaurant industries.

"We don't want someone to be a store associate in a thrift store for the rest of their lives," Venable said.

Peak Thift is at 4890 Pecos St. in Denver.