Denver VOICE guide to spring cleaning & recycling

Denver VOICE guide to spring cleaning & recycling

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.

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Writing Through Hard Times

Writing Through Hard Times

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.

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Editor's Note

Editor's Note

By Sarah Harvey, Managing Editor

In your hands you are holding all the information you need to become a community superhero. 

I don’t know a lot about superheroes, so to help prepare for this issue I consulted some experts: my niece and nephews, ages six, eight, and nine. I asked them about the qualities a person needed to have to be considered a superhero. The general consensus was that superheroes have exceptional abilities and powers, and/or they save people.

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Temporary Tiny Homes for Denver’s Homeless

A vacant lot at 38th and Walnut Streets is slated to become Denver's first tiny home community.
By Sonia Christensen

The future site of Beloved Community Village. Photo by Giles Clasen

The future site of Beloved Community Village. Photo by Giles Clasen

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. ■

Good News: Urgency to a New Life

By Aneta Storvik, PR Coordinator for the Denver Rescue Mission

Urgency—a word that sums up Michael’s journey to a new life. His journey begins at the Lawrence Street Shelter.

One day, after finishing breakfast at the shelter, instead of moving from his seat to go back outside, he sat there. He was afraid that if he had walked out those doors, then he would have died—if not physically, emotionally. So he waited with determination and carried that sense of urgency with him, and spoke with Jay Earl, the intake chaplain, about starting the New Life Program—a rehabilitation program at Denver Rescue Mission.

His sense of urgency paid off. By that evening, he was enrolled in the New Life Program and his life was forever changed.

“Jay Earl believed in me, and he gave me a chance when he had no reason to think I could clean up my life up,” Michael recalls.

Michael impressed his supervisors with his work ethic and positive attitude and earned four promotions in less than a year. Today, he’s an assistant manager at a Goodwill store and a graduate of the New Life Program.

Watch Michael’s story here!

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I am grateful to work at Denver Rescue Mission and hear these stories first-hand, and the best part of it all, is that we all can relate to Michael’s story of urgency and determination. We all experience the “white flag” moment that finally releases the crippling habits that bring us down.

The New Life Program is dependent on the men, who are seeking change, that want to fight for their lives. It’s a fight to freedom from negative decisions, addictions, abuse…

When you partner with organizations like the Denver VOICE or the Mission, you’re helping, encouraging and supporting men and women who are fighting for their lives! 

Denver Quirks: Making a Difference After Hours

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. 

Good News: Homeless Learn Positive Thinking

by Senaye Gebre-Michael

On a warm Tuesday morning last week, the Denver VOICE vendor office hosted its regular meeting. This meeting is more like a learning experience, titled “Growth Class.” The session focuses on opening up vendors who are ready to be motivated and influenced in the most sincere way.

After a circle of 15-plus people introduced themselves, I was asked to introduce myself—I was right outside the circle taking notes and observing. I quickly became a part of the group once I told them my name Senaye and an intern for the VOICE. They smiled and said thank you for volunteering and helping us.

The speaker was Ruth Kanatser, SAP Director from Harm Reduction Action Center. Ruth brought up some important issues. She used a few phrases that stuck out to me after explaining how she used to be homeless and clearly was now becoming more self-sufficient daily. The main content was circled around health. Healthiness equals Happiness, is what she explained. Homelessness is a recovery process, a stressful lifestyle. Too often our thoughts are negative—90% of the time when it comes to our humanistic affirmations. She gave the example of a man by the name of ‘LA’ who was the last to introduce himself. The speaker asked, who are you? He replied nobody and giggled. That right there is a strong example of a negative affirmation. Too often our affirmations are false and negative. The key to beating this burden is to equip ourselves with the right weaponry, which happens to be positive affirmations.

She said when someone says the word “try,” they use a word halfway to failure because it’s so easy to back out. She explained, if something doesn’t work out it’s not all your fault. Be constructively positive, say something great about yourself and mean it! Say it with emotion. She did a writing workshop with everyone to strengthen her message.

My first experience from the VOICE's regular growth class was incredible. It makes me humble, appreciative and warmer towards certain individuals as they learn to love themselves and their lives, with or without money. We all need to give thanks for the positives in life. I will always count my blessings and I will always try and spread that message to each individual I meet.