News Briefs

New HUD regulations to help transgender homeless

By Danielle Krolewicz

The Equal Access Rule proposed last November by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is expected to be finalized this month. Among other things, it will allow individuals to stay in homeless shelters based on the gender with which they identify. Congress has not passed discrimination protection laws for transgendered people seeking services from shelters, so the regulations would only affect agencies that receive funding from the federal government.

The proposal has been met with backlash, primarily from conservative groups, such as the American Family Association and the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions. 

“Institutions with more religious focus will probably have to make decisions whether they abide by the regulations or if they are able to find funding elsewhere,” said Sable Schultz, the transgender program manager with the GLBT Community Center of Colorado.

“Both the Delores Project and The Gathering Place have been trans-inclusive for years. Those two become models for how other organizations may address concerns in community members,” added Schultz.

“The proposed changes will not affect TGP policies since this has been our policy for many years,” said Leslie Foster, president and CEO of The Gathering Place. Foster noted that many service providers are moving in this direction. “Nevertheless, making this an official policy and a requirement for service providers gives people who are transgender a sense that they are visible, they matter, and that they have rights and access to due process.” ■

 

 

Aurora hires first homeless director

By Danielle Krolewicz

Last month, Shelley McKittrick became the first homelessness program director for the city of Aurora. The new position is funded by tax dollars from marijuana sales, coming from a three-year budget of $4.5 million allocated by the City Council to address short and long-term issues pertaining to homelessness in Aurora.

“We need to play a bigger role in this [issue] and not just use our mouths but put some action behind it,” said McKittrick. “I think hiring me was part of the demonstration of the commitment that the mayor and city of Aurora have to the issue.”

In Santa Cruz, California, McKittrick oversaw a large homeless services center that included three shelters, a medical respite program, and a transitional housing program. The agency utilized a housing first approach that was harm-reduction focused. Unless individuals were disturbing the peace, they were not required to change in order to access services. As a result, 250 people were housed in the first two years, greatly exceeding the organization’s goal of 180.

McKittrick spent the past four years in California, but prior to that she worked for several nonprofit agencies in Denver, including Denver HIV Resources Planning Council and Project Angel Heart. 

“I’m excited to return to Colorado and bring my experience with developing and implementing national best practices in homeless services to bear on local responses to homelessness,” McKittrick said.

Collaborations between city departments, government agencies, and local nonprofits will be led by McKittrick in order to develop Aurora’s approach to homelessness. 

“We need to support those who are doing the work in providing the best support possible to get everyone on the streets off the streets and to safe and stable housing,” said McKittrick. “Once a community is able to house those that are chronically homeless…then when people fall into homelessness, it will be brief: there will be systems in place to quickly catch them and get them back into housing,” said McKittrick.

“I am a true believer that we can end homelessness.” ■

 

 

Bed Race Coming to Denver

By Matthew Van Deventer

Conservatory Green Park and Plaza in Stapleton will be filled with traveling, dressed up beds this month for a bed race supporting the Denver branch of Family Promise, a national nonprofit that works to provide families in-need with emergency services and shelter. 

Colleagues, supporters of the organization, volunteers, and church members will make up the race teams. Each team will craft a themed bed set on wheels and push it down Valencia Street between East 50th Avenue and East 49th Place in Stapleton. Although the team registration fee is only $25, team members will also raise funds on their own. Family Promise hopes to raise a grand total of $3,000-$5,000 for its program.

John Chambers, director of marketing and communications for Family Promise of Greater Denver, says the event is done at branches all over the country, but this year will be the first year the Denver location is holding the Bed Race. It aims to raise funds for and awareness of what they do, “which is to provide shelter to families experiencing homelessness, and [the event] really ties to that mission.” In addition to shelter, the organization also provides beds, food, and supportive services. 

“The race and mock beds are just an example of that shelter,” continues Chambers, who has his own team called the Rocket Racers, named after Elton John’s “Rocket Man.”

“We’ve served more than 1,100 families since we began, but homelessness affects all of us, and it will take the full community to reach a long-term solution,” said Allie Card, executive director of Family Promise. “This is an exciting opportunity to come together for a day of family fun to help our neighbors in need.”

The event starts at 10:00 a.m. September 17 and runs until 2:00 p.m. 

Because this is the first year the event is being held, Chambers says he doesn’t know what to expect, but looks forward to it being the start of a regular thing: “It’s a little more uncertain because we don’t have a benchmark, but I hope it will be an annual tradition.” ■