You probably have a pretty good idea of where to donate clothing and furniture—but what do you do with the rest of your junk? Denver is full of nonprofits upcycling everything from office supplies to old paint to karaoke machines. Use this guide to help you figure out how to give a new life to practically everything cluttering up your closets.Read More
The Hard Times Writing Workshop is a collaboration between Denver Public Library and Lighthouse Writers Workshop. The workshop is open to all members of the public—especially those experiencing homelessness. Each month, the Denver VOICE will publish a selection of the voices of Hard Times.Read More
This column shares the thoughts and opinions of the diverse group of people who make up the Denver VOICE vendor pool. Have a question for VOICE vendors? Help us continue the dialogue by submitting your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is the biggest misconception about homelessness?
The biggest misconception is that homeless people are lazy, shiftless, no good, and no-count. That “these people” have never had anything in life, they don’t want anything, and they will never contribute anything worth mentioning. That they are a bunch of alcoholics and drug addicts. And most of all, that they wish to be homeless.
That people are homeless because they are lazy or on dope.
I think the biggest misconception of homelessness is that they are lazy. People don’t know that many homeless are unable to work due to an illness or handicap.
Not all homeless are mentally ill or drug addicts! My feeling is—regardless of why you are homeless—once you have hit rock bottom, no one really wants to help. Some of us didn’t have family to help us out there on the road of life. ■
A vacant lot at 38th and Walnut Streets is slated to become Denver's first tiny home community.
By Sonia Christensen
If all goes according to plan, Denver will see two new temporary tiny house villages built in 2017—both intended to provide an alternative type of shelter for people experiencing homelessness. The first, called Beloved Community Village and organized in part by Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, will be constructed in late March or early April and will only take 1-2 days to complete. The second one, which is being planned by St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, could be operational by this summer.
Beloved Community Village is the collaborative effort of several partners: Denver Homeless Out Loud (DHOL), Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, Alternative Solutions Advocacy Project, Bayaud Enterprises, Radian, Inc., the Buck Foundation, and Beloved Community Mennonite Church. The group plans to build 11 tiny houses and one larger, yurt-like circHouse to serve as a community building.
Beloved will be built on land that is already targeted to be developed at some point for low-income housing. The village will exist on this plot of land for no more than 180 days and then it will be taken down and relocated to another plot of land. Interfaith is currently looking at six other possible future locations. The first location will be on approximately 26,000 square feet at 3733 Walnut St.
Nathan Hunt, program director of economic justice at Interfaith, said the RINO BID board voted to support the project with the understanding that Beloved Community Village will develop a “good neighbor agreement” in partnership with them, which the village organizers are now working on. Hunt also said the Cole neighborhood board gave a warm reception to the idea.
According to the proposal that Interfaith and its partners presented to the city in January, those organizing the village will seek individuals experiencing homelessness who may not feel a traditional shelter is an option. For example, they list LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, and people working non-traditional hours.
“I think any philosophy for a social program needs to be designed for humans. Humans are complex and a one-size-fits-all model doesn’t work,” said Hunt.
DHOL will select the 11-22 residents of the village and provide support with village governance, though the residents will be responsible for creating their own community agreement. According to Hunt, “DHOL have really been the leaders on this. They’ve been pushing for something like this but they’ve had trouble getting a plot of land.”
The land they have found, along with their partners, currently belongs to the Urban Land Conservancy and will be leased by Beloved Community Mennonite Church. In addition, Bayaud Enterprises will provide laundry services with a mobile laundry truck and Denver Food Rescue will provide fresh foods and access to food stamps.
Evan Dreyer, deputy chief of staff at the Mayor’s Office, expressed support for Beloved Community Village, saying that the mayor is committed and open to all possible solutions to address homelessness and affordable housing. He also commented on the unique obstacles facing a new project like this: “The challenge and opportunity is that it’s a new project and as with anything new it requires more of a heavy lift. We just want to help the proponents get it done and get it done well.”
According to Ally Dodge, community correspondent for the St. Andrews tiny house village (Denver’s second proposed tiny house community), the church actually has plans to build a more permanent project on the lot adjacent to their church in the future, but this village is something they can get started on while they wait for all the pieces of that larger project to come together. “This is something we can do now,” she said. “We can immediately have an impact.”
St. Andrews plans to construct eight tiny homes, as well as a shared kitchen space and a shared restroom and shower area, the funds for which they anticipate getting mostly through grants. Like Beloved Community, St. Andrew’s tiny house program will operate in partnership with several other nonprofits and organization. One of those is the Delores Project, a shelter that provides services for unaccompanied women and transgender individuals experiencing homelessness. The Delores Project will select the residents that will live in the tiny house village and will also offer support in helping those individuals move on to more permanent situations. According to Dodge, the village is not meant to provide long-term housing, and though they will not kick anyone out who has not found permanent housing, they expect that residents will move on within three to six months. “It may take longer,” she said, “But we’re just going to get in there and try and see what happens.”
The Delores Project will also offer support in forming the set of rules that the residents will live by, though it will technically be up to the residents themselves to create a code of conduct.
Dodge said the church is very enthusiastic about the tiny house village. However, there has been pushback from the neighborhood. “We’ve had a lot of people voice comments, questions, and concerns, as one would imagine. Initially I think that a lot of gossip, rumor, and innuendo get circulated and we’ve had to dispel a lot of mythology of what we were trying to accomplish. We’ve been very open to questions and concerns and we’ve been trying to address them individually as they come up. There were a lot of questions about sanitation, there were questions about how would we run electricity and water and those are all questions that are incredibly valid that we’ve been working through with the city.”
One of the largest misconceptions that Dodge said the church faced in organizing this project was the image that many people had in their minds about who would be staying at the shelter. “To many folks, the face of the homeless is the dirty man in rags, someone who is on drugs or drinking, or mentally ill, people sleeping on the ground or on a park bench,” wrote Dodge in an email. “They don’t see the woman who fears for her safety at night, who has skills to get a job if she could catch a break, who is motivated and actively seeking resources to get herself out of her predicament.” Dodge and St. Andrew’s made efforts to educate neighbors on the many faces of homelessness in Denver. “When we tell people that part of the benefit of getting into the village is having an address so they can get a job, people are kind of surprised,” said Dodge. “That thought never occurred to them.”
According to Dodge the city has been generally supportive of the plan, but because there are not a lot of rules in place for temporary structures like this, current rules and regulations will have to be modified in order for the project to move ahead. St. Andrews expects that to be a three- to six-month process. If all goes according to plan, construction could be underway in May. ■
100,000 Homes Campaign reports Denver’s Road Home on track to end chronic and vulnerable homelessness
WASHINGTON, DC— The 100,000 Homes Campaign, a national initiative of Community Solutions, announced that Denver’s Road Home is one of just 15 communities in the country that is measurably on track to end chronic and vulnerable homelessness.
A community must consistently move 2.5 percent of its chronic and medically vulnerable homeless neighbors into permanent housing each month to be considered on track to addressing this need. Over the past four months, Denver’s Road Home in partnership with the Denver Street Outreach Collaborative (DSOC) and multiple service providers has connected an average of 10 chronic or vulnerable people, or 3 percent, a month to housing. Since 2005, the inception of Denver’s Road Home, the DSOC has housed a total of 1,992 people; 438 of those individuals have been housed over the past 2 ½ years, since forming a partnership with the 100,000 Homes Campaign.
The DSOC identifies a chronic or vulnerable homeless person for housing by using the Vulnerability Index, a tool for identifying and prioritizing the street homeless population for housing, according to the fragility of their health and the length of time on the streets.
Exceeding the 2.5 percent mark is a difficult and noteworthy accomplishment that proves that Denver is not just talking about ending homelessness, but actually doing it, [according to Denver's Road Home]. Chronic and vulnerable homeless people are often the most difficult to house as well as the most at risk for dying on the streets. Their homelessness also costs public systems far more than the straightforward cost of permanent supportive housing.
Denver’s Road Home and its partners are helping to end chronic and vulnerable homelessness by finding housing for those who currently meet the definition of chronic and/or vulnerable homelessness, as well as those who are projected to enter the ranks of chronic and vulnerable homelessness through 2015.
Through its participation in the 100,000 Homes Campaign, Denver’s Road Home is teaching and learning from the best performing communities in the country so that each community can all end homelessness together. All participating communities work to identify each of their homeless neighbors by name and prioritize the most chronic and vulnerable among them for rapid, permanent housing.
“Housing at least 2.5 percent of your chronic and vulnerable homeless neighbors every month is the difference between talking about ending homelessness and actually doing it. The communities hitting this mark are some of the best in the country, and we are relying on their leadership and expertise to help more communities get on track to end homelessness,” said Becky Kanis, Director of the 100,000 Homes Campaign.
The national list of communities on track to end chronic/vulnerable homelessness includes:
- Arlington County, VA
- Bellflower, CA
- Bergen County, NJ
- Charlotte, NC
- Chattanooga, TN
- Denver, CO
- North Hollywood/Sun Valley, CA
- Omaha, NE
- Philadelphia, PA
- Portland, OR
- Richmond, VA
- Shreveport/Bossier, LA
- Silverlake, CA
- Tulsa, OK
- Whittier, CA
About 100,000 Homes Campaign
The 100,000 Campaign, a national initiative of Community Solutions, is a movement of over 140 communities working together to find permanent housing for 100,000 chronic and vulnerable homeless individuals and families by July of 2014. To date, participating communities have housed over 19,000 people nationwide. Learn more at www.100khomes.org!
About Denver’s Road Home
Denver’s Road Home is a collaborative effort to end homelessness throughout Denver that began in 2005. To learn more, visitwww.DenversRoadHome.org.
By Rebekah Hanish
“Love God. Love people,” Pastor Jerry Herships says. It’s the closest thing that After Hours church would have to a mission statement.
It’s a statement that may not be that revolutionary for most churches. But holding church during happy hour at a bar probably is.
After Hours church holds a bi-monthly service at either Blake Street Tavern or The Irish Snug on Monday nights. Attendees are invited to eat, get a drink and talk as well as bring however many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (or the ingredients!) they want.
But not for themselves. It would be weird to bring your own peanut butter and jelly sandwich to a bar.
As an act of service, during worship time, several people head to the back of the room where an assembly line is formed. They make and pack up the sandwiches with bags of chips, a piece of fruit and crackers or a cookie into brown paper lunch bags. The next day, a crew will head out to Civic Center Park at noon to distribute the lunches to the homeless along with water, clothes, hygiene items or anything else a homeless person might need. They also offer prayers and communion for those who wish to take it.
Originally starting as a ministry branch of St. Andrew’s Methodist Church in Highlands Ranch, After Hours started about three years ago. But the church didn’t have the resources to keep it going. Shortly after discontinuing After Hours, the bishop appointed Herships to take it on as a full-time church in downtown Denver, not necessarily associated with St. Andrew’s.
After Hours has been operating on its own for a year now and is thriving. About one third of the 50-60 people that come are from the original St. Andrew’s group, and the rest are from the downtown area, largely drawn in by the marketing coasters that After Hours leaves around the bars.
With a church that small, making the lunches for the homeless six days a week would be an impossible task. But after hearing about what After Hours is doing, seven other churches, two businesses and an apartment complex have approached After Hours wanting to partner with their cause. It’s with their help that people can regularly get lunch at Civic Center Park six days a week.
“You may come here, and you may meet some people you like and you might not. You might learn something about the character of God, and you might not. You might love it, and you may not. But at the end of the day, we made lunch for a lot of homeless people tomorrow,” Herships says during his leading of the sermon/discussion time.
by Diana Kurniawan
Any individual in the nation can be vulnerable to homelessness especially with the shaken economy, but how do you define who is more vulnerable then others?
A lot of agencies across the country would love a solid answer to this question, but how? Colorado Counts, a statewide initiative, is working to define this vulnerability in our state.
Colorado Counts, in collaboration with Community Solutions and 100,000 Homes Campaign, will seek vulnerable individuals in Colorado to identify his/her housing and health care needs. This statewide initiative is designed to work with local county governments and the Office of Governor Hickenlooper.
Volunteers will interview and photograph individuals living on the street (only those that give consent) to measure each person’s the Vulnerability Index — or how volunerable and therefore in need each individual is. Some have already been conducted.
1) Life threatening health issues
2) Behaviors or circumstances which jeopardize health, life and/or housing ·
3) At‐risk for system involvement
4) Frequent user of emergency services
The model is taken from the 100,000 Homes Campaign strategy, which builds community teams to work person-to-person to help the at-risk individual find secure housing or permanent employment. Each volunteer in their designated community area will take a photograph of the individual, whom they have interviewed, and clarify their needs to regain a better life.
So far, 150 communities have participated in the campaign and the number of persons housed through this model is constantly updated.
Metro Denver Homeless Initiative hires new executive director
Nola Renz has been named the new executive director of the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative, which provides homeless housing and services for the seven-country metro Denver area.
She has 15 years experience providing homeless services in Pierce County, Washington, and served as president of the board of the Washington State Coalition for the Homeless.
Renz, who earned both her undergraduate and graduate degrees at Regis University, was formerly executive director of Helping Hand House in Puyallap, WA, a non-profit founded in 1984.
As its second executive director, hired in 1997, Renz grew the organization from two staff, 11 homes, and a budget of less than $200,000 to 14 staff, 42 homes, an employment program, and a budget of $1.6 million.
Read more:Metro Denver Homeless Initiative hires new executive director - The Denver Posthttp://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_21147213/metro-denver-homeless-initiative-hires-new-executive-director#ixzz21eckl2Mz
Here's an official statement from Brad Meuli, President/CEO, Denver Rescue Mission:
While waiting for official results from public health officials, Denver Rescue Mission conducted an internal investigation into the incident that sent 60 people to the hospital Sunday, July 22.
We determined that our Lawrence Street Shelter did not follow our established procedures for handling pre-prepared food donations on Sunday, July 22, which it often receives.
We are working closely with officials at Environmental Health and Denver Public Health regarding Sunday’s incident. We are taking this matter very seriously by thoroughly examining internal procedures for food safety.
Annually at Denver Rescue Mission, we provide over 600,000 meals and are confident this is an isolated incident. Our number one concern is for the poor and needy we serve every day. We understand that all of the people who were hospitalized have been treated and released, and many returned to stay at the Mission. I am unaware of something like this ever happening at Denver Rescue Mission, and we will make every effort to limit the possibility of this ever happening again.
With the exception of pre-prepared food, we are operating all of our facilities as normal, including the distribution of food to our partner agencies and accepting food donations from our generous community. Pre-prepared food will not be served at the shelter until health officials complete the investigation.
Denver Rescue Mission has been serving the community for over 120 years. The Mission will continue providing critical meals, shelter, clothing, and medical care to those in need, helping people to change their lives moving from poverty to self-sufficiency.