I have had the opportunity to experience some incredible improvements in the lives of some of our street youth during the six months that I have been working at Sox Place. I have had the pleasure of getting to know Deven (formerly known on the streets as Ziggy), who has progressed from prison cell to maintaining a part-time job at a custom motorcycle shop in Denver. I wrote about some of my experiences with him earlier this year here (http://soxplace.com/new-beginnings) and here (http://soxplace.com/planting-seeds-at-sox-place/), in which I built up an older Trek mountain bike for Deven as a means of reliable and inexpensive transportation for him to use during his job search, and later on, for him to use to travel to and from work.
As some of you may know, a bicycle can greatly improve the chances of a homeless individual receiving a job. Many of our youth interview for jobs that require a means of transportation, such as within the field of construction, but are ultimately turned down due to their inability to travel to the job site. A bicycle is a much more affordable means of transportation in comparison to utilizing the city bus system, and is certainly much less expensive than owning a vehicle, which out of reach for most of the youth that we serve. A one-way bus pass within the Denver Metro area can cost anywhere from $2.25 to $5.00 per trip; a monthly bus pass can cost nearly eighty dollars. Riding a bicycle as a means of transportation, however, is significantly less expensive. It can cost only a few dollars a month in routine repairs to maintain a bicycle, which makes this method of transportation a welcome alternative to public transportation. And most of the time, it takes the same amount of time (or even less time) as riding the bus to travel throughout the city by bike.
The problem, however, is that few of the youth that we serve on a daily basis actually know how to maintain their own bike, let alone take care of simple repairs. Something as simple as a flat tire will cause many of our youth to ditch their bike in favor of riding the bus or even walking. Since some of the homeless within Denver often steal or trade low-value items for these bikes in the first place, they do not feel obligated to maintain them.
I am a huge advocate for cycling, and I spend many hours on bikes of my own, riding on grueling endurance rides up steep mountain back roads, cruising along riverside bike paths, and hammering through rush hour traffic during my commute to work. Though I own a car, I very rarely use it, and am completely aware that a vehicle is not necessary within the metro area. Over the past year, I have built three of my own bikes and have performed routine maintenance and repairs on countless others.
Among a plethora of other benefits, cycling can give the street youth of Denver a means of sustainable and reliable transportation, enabling them to obtain jobs, which in the long run, can give them the tools and experience that they need to leave the dangerous and unpredictable environment of the city streets. The staff and I agree that it would be extremely beneficial to create a program in which we would be able to educate our youth on proper bicycle maintenance and repairs, while also forming meaningful relationships in which we could mentor our youth in the process.
As I’m sure you are aware, we are a privately funded organization, so our finances can often be tight. We are in the process of purchasing a few necessary tools for our new bike workstation at Sox Place, but we are also in need of used bicycles and bike parts (such as tires, tubes, used components, etc.). Used bicycles can be quite easy to come by, since many families often have abandoned old bicycles in the basement or garage, suffering from neglect and disuse. My hope is that as our youth show interest in this program, we will be able to give them the opportunity to earn their own bicycle through time and dedication, while learning important maintenance and repairs skills, as well as work and social skills needed for the workplace.
On behalf of the staff and the youth at Sox Place, I am asking you to consider a gift to Sox Place in the form of a used bicycle, bike parts, or even a monetary donation in support of all that we do to serve the homeless youth of Denver.
If you are interested in becoming involved or would like more information on this new program, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.