Samaritan House and Denver Rescue Mission urge ‘no’ vote on Initiative 300

Top shelters in Denver urge real solutions to homelessness

Denver Catholic Staff

Samaritan House joins Denver Rescue Mission in urging a ‘no’ vote on Initiative 300 on the Denver ballot. Instead, civic efforts should focus on providing services to those experiencing homelessness that help them thrive and not simply survive.

“We want people to come off the street so we can provide them with a safe place to sleep, a hot meal and renewed hope at Samaritan House and Samaritan House Women’s Emergency Shelter,” said Mike Sinnett, vice president of Shelters Services for Catholic Charities. “Our shelters offer dignified and safe options for those without a home. We are equipped to continue to provide services for them to not simply survive but to thrive.”

Initiative 300, also called “Right to Survive” by proponents, would propose significant service challenges, risking the safety and well-being of shelter residents, including families and children, as well as staff of Samaritan House, and of Denver Rescue Mission’s Lawrence Street Shelter and Community Center. Samaritan House, at 2301 Lawrence St., and the Denver Rescue Mission work in close proximity.

“At our very core, we want to help the most vulnerable people in our community. That’s what the Mission’s done for the past 127 years and will continue to do for years to come,” Brad Meuli, President and CEO of Denver Rescue Mission, said. “If you live in Denver, please vote ‘No’ on Initiative 300 and wherever you live please help us by volunteering, donating, or simply engaging in conversations with city officials and others in our community to work on the complicated issue of homelessness. I want to see people experiencing homelessness get the help they need, that’s why Denver Rescue Mission and Catholic Charities are here.”

Initiative 300 would overturn Denver’s urban camping ban. During periods of camping outside both shelters, providers saw an increased presence of police addressing illegal activity and sanitary issues. Samaritan House specifically saw a rise in reports from shelter residents about their children’s safety around the premises. The leadership of Samaritan House and Denver Rescue Mission warn that the passage of Initiative 300 would usher in the following risks and difficulties:

  • Increased health risks to men, women and children utilizing the shelters and staff due to unsanitary environments and illegal drug activity
  • Impede front line staffs’ ability to offer outreach to those living on the streets, including possible legal consequences for offering assistance
  • Hurt efforts to provide crucial services to men, women, and children who face the dangers of living on the street

In 2018, Denver Rescue Mission provided more than 907,000 meals and 400,500 nights of shelter. Last year, 686 of its downtown Denver guests chose to enroll in a life-changing Mission program or service—including the New Life Program. One year after graduation, 91 percent of the Mission’s New Life Program graduates maintain their housing.

Catholic Charities of Denver provided 202,730 nights in emergency and transitional shelter, and 992,070 nights in affordable housing in fiscal year 2017-2018. After completing the Samaritan House extended stay program, 92 percent of men and women 96 percent of families were discharged with income. Through its unique continuum of care model, which addresses each family or individual’s unique needs at every age and stage of life, Catholic Charities provides shelter, affordable housing, early childhood education, counseling, emergency services, food and clothing, senior services and more.

The Denver Homeless Leadership Council, a coalition of service providers that includes Catholic Charities and the Denver Rescue Mission, also recently released a statement on March 6, 2019 about Initiative 300, available here.

About Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Denver

Catholic Charities has served the Denver community since 1927 and now serves tens of thousands of people each year throughout northern Colorado in seven ministries: Marisol Services; Early Childhood Education; Shelter Services; Archdiocesan Housing; St. Raphael Counseling; Family, Kinship, and Senior Services; and Community Services. Catholic Charities serves those in need with the help of hundreds of volunteers and through collaboration with Catholic parishes, other churches, local businesses, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, medical facilities and educational institutions. Learn more at ccdenver.org.

About Denver Rescue Mission

Since 1892, Denver Rescue Mission has been meeting the needs of the poor and homeless through emergency services, rehabilitation, transitional programs and community outreach. For more information visit, DenverRescueMission.org.

COMING UP: Church and state partner to carry out corporal works of mercy during pandemic and beyond

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In times of great need and crisis, we find strength in unity and collaboration, and amid the coronavirus pandemic, this truth remains within the Archdiocese of Denver.

For many years, the Archdiocese of Denver and local Colorado government officials have found ways to work together toward common goals and better serve the people of Colorado, which often includes carrying out corporal works of mercy such as feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless. And through the COVID-19 pandemic, these partnerships continue to be a crucial part of Colorado’s and the Church’s response to those in need.

The City of Denver and the Archdiocese of Denver have a history of partnering to support people in need. During the pandemic, Mayor Michael B. Hancock and his administration have worked with the archdiocese to safeguard the homeless population and extend testing for COVID-19 to communities at higher risk of struggling with the virus.

“These types of true collaborative relationships really make the difference because you can call on your partners [and] you have established relationships that are built on trust and built on true engagement and true focus on a mutually agreed upon mission,” Mayor Hancock told the Denver Catholic. “Catholic Charities and the archdiocese have been just tremendous partners over the years with us.”

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver told the Denver Catholic that “the Catholic Church is motivated to care for the poor and needy by Christ’s commandment to love one another as he loved us.

“The coronavirus pandemic,” he added, “has highlighted this important work and underscored the essential role the Catholic Church plays in fostering a society that upholds the God-given dignity of every person.

“It has been a blessing to be able to work with the City of Denver over many years to serve these vulnerable populations.”

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila and the Archdiocese of Denver have partnered with Mayor Michael Hancock and the City of Denver in the past to better serve people in need, and they’ve continued those collaborative efforts through the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Catholic Charities)

Recently, on July 10 and July 23, Mayor Hancock and the City of Denver hosted events in partnership with Ascension Catholic Parish in Montbello to provide testing for COVID-19 and a mobile food pantry to the local community.

“We have been looking for opportunities to be in the communities, to do the testing, to meet people where they are. And we recognize that Latinos and African-Americans in particular have been most vulnerable to this virus,” Mayor Hancock said. “We needed to really just make sure we took the opportunities for testing to those communities.”

Then, on Aug. 6, Ascension hosted another event in collaboration with the City of Denver where the mayor’s office gave away free backpacks with school supplies, healthy food baskets, baby products, feminine hygiene products and more.

“I am very thankful for Mayor Hancock’s collaboration to help the people of Montbello,” said Father Dan Norick, pastor of Ascension Parish. “I also thank God for the people in Montbello who are caring for each other in these difficult times. May Jesus be praised!”

Mayor Hancock said that hosting these events at Ascension Parish made sense because of the established relationship the City of Denver and the Archdiocese of Denver have developed over the years.

“When you’re looking for who you partner with during these opportunities, you turn to who’s most familiar with you and who you’ve had a trusting collaboration with,” he said. “And it just so happens the archdiocese and the parish there have been the ones that we’ve worked with over the years. So it was very natural. It’s a place where people are familiar and a place they trust.”

It’s not only during the pandemic that this partnership has been fruitful, though. A strong partnership between Samaritan House and the city has existed for quite some time, and this relationship has borne much fruit over the years. Samaritan House strives to be more than a just a homeless shelter, providing education, life skills classes and one-on-one support for its residents to empower them to break free from the cycle of poverty and support themselves independently.

In August 2017, the City of Denver and Catholic Charities of Denver cut the ribbon on the first all-women’s shelter in the city. Called Samaritan House Women’s Shelter, it follows Samaritan House’s established model of helping those experiencing hard times find a way out of poverty and ultimately, bring hope to their lives. Each night, it offers 225 beds for women who are in need of immediate shelter.

Back in April, Catholic Charities teamed up with the City of Denver and took the lead on an auxiliary women’s shelter set up at the Denver Coliseum. (Photo by Catholic Charities)

Back in April, in response to the pandemic and out of a need to maintain social distancing protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the City of Denver and Catholic Charities of Denver partnered to set up the Denver Coliseum as a 24/7 auxiliary emergency women’s shelter that’s that was able to accommodate up to 300 women. Catholic Charities staff took the lead at the shelter with full support from the City of Denver. The auxiliary shelter has since returned to the regular women’s shelter facility, but this collaboration between the city and Catholic Charities was crucial as cases of COVID-19 climbed in April.

“When the pandemic hit, Catholic Charities had to find a way to social distance the ladies in its Women’s Emergency Shelter,” said Mike Sinnett, Vice President of Shelters and Community Outreach. “We also had to provide them 24/7 care to honor the governor’s Stay-at-Home order and triage for the virus. Working with the City of Denver staff, we came together as a shelter community and obtained the use of the Denver Coliseum downtown. We were able to better provide social distancing, 24/7 shelter with three meals a day and other amenities, including showers and case management.

“We believe this effort with the city protected our most vulnerable community and helped prevent the spread of the virus. But more importantly, we made it safer for women experiencing homelessness during this pandemic.”

Featured image: Father Dan Norick hands out supplies during a community giveaway event hosted at Ascension Catholic Parish in Montbello in conjunction with the City of Denver. (Photo provided)