Draper woman’s ‘Closer to Home’ initiative benefits homeless teens

DRAPER, Utah — A Draper woman has launched an initiative to spread awareness about teen homelessness, and help raise money to keep a youth homeless program running.

Famous YouTube stars including The Piano Guys are jumping on board to help.

On Wednesday, Dawn Armstrong and her daughters made a pre-Thanksgiving dinner of spaghetti and confetti cake.

As she worked with the two girls in the kitchen, she taught them not how to cook, but how to give back.

“Spending time and investing in someone else is probably one of the most precious gifts you can give to another human being,” she said, as she and her daughters stood over the stove, stirring spaghetti sauce.

They made dinner for the teens who live at the Milestone home, run by a Salt Lake County program that provides housing for homeless youth ages 18-21.

Case managers with the Milestone Transitional Living program work with the young adults to attend school, find a job, secure housing and successfully move their lives forward.

But recently, Armstrong found out some troubling news about the home’s federal funding that sparked her to take action.

“Funding for this home will be up in June,” she said. “That's when Closer to Home was born.”

Closer to Home, she said, is a new initiative with the mantra, "donate, mentor and serve."

She kick started an eight-week campaign that will run through the holidays, and Armstrong said it will include service opportunities for the community and mini concerts for homeless youth with performances by The Piano Guys, Yahosh Bonner and Stuart Edge.

Closer to Home hosted the first concert last Friday.

“It was a blast, and the kids just lit up,” Armstrong said. “For the course of an hour and a half, they were able to step away from their problems and just have a normal teen experience.”

Armstrong said she hopes Closer to Home will put teen homelessness on the map, through awareness and action.

“Homelessness is something that’s very misunderstood,” she said. No one understands that more than she does.

“When I look at these kids, I want them to know that I know them,” Armstrong said, with tears in her eyes.

Armstrong was homeless from 14 to 18 years old, and has lived through the struggles of the youth she now serves.

“The hardest part about being a homeless teen, is this feeling of invisibility. That no one sees your need,” she said.

Closer to Home provides an opportunity to see these kids, Armstrong said, and see their need.

“It's exciting,” Milestone Program Manager Mina Koplin said, of the initiative. “It's thrilling to think that we can really get the community rallied behind this important cause.”

Click here for more information on Closer to Home.