Photos: Homeless initiative celebrates 1,000th family moving into permanent housing
Once inducted into the program, families work with mentors for six months to tackle physical, professional, relational and spiritual needs. Of those who have joined the program to date, 87 percent remain in permanent housing one year after they began. The same model of service is implemented in 26 cities across the country, and in Denver more than $1 million has been spent on rent and deposits. Of that total, $327,00 comes from the congregations.
"We're a national model when it comes to the faith-based community," Mayor Michael Hancock says. Although the program began in Denver in 2005 under former mayor (and current governor) John Hickenlooper, Hancock says there was never a question of cutting it. "People are looking to Denver when it comes to the homeless."
In recent months, the city's homeless support network has split on the issue of urban camping, with city councilman Albus Brooks and Hancock supporting a bill to make it illegal on public or private property. Although the city lacks the number of beds needed to serve as replacement shelter if the ordinance is approved, supporters suggest faith-based opportunities as a viable alternative. But for today, says Denver's Road Home executive director Bennie Milliner, "you can take the ordinance out of the picture."
Kelsey Whipple Bennie Milliner speaks in front of the gathering.
On its own, Denver's model of collaboration between faith and government "does have a life to continue because it's a more sustainable and enduring approach to a niche population," Milliner told Westword. "It's like with any other fundraising opportunity: You just have to ask. Maybe one church won't be able or available, but then two small ones can want to play a role in this."
From here, the next step is clear-cut: 2,000 families. "There are about 1,500 churches and one million who attend them at least twice a month," says Don Reeves of the Clergy Council. "That's a million people who care and can help us get another 1,000."
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