We are excited to announce that we’ve been awarded a grant by the City of Denver’s Department of Housing Stability, and along with the continued generous support of our community, it will provide upgrades to our shelter services, allowing us to better accommodate guests and reach more individuals in need.

Tracy Brooks, senior director of emergency services, said the hope is that the new initiatives supported by this grant will encourage individuals who have been hesitant or unable to engage in services to begin the process of change through the resources offered by the Mission.

Tracy shares more about the Mission’s upcoming plans with this grant:

Why are we being awarded this grant by the City of Denver?

The Department of Housing Stability (HOST) released a Request for Proposal (RFP) for shelter expansion after the City of Denver teamed up with other community partners to secure funds for this grant. We had the opportunity to submit a request for both capital and program funds, so we submitted a proposal that would help us reduce some barriers to our Emergency Services that we have experienced as a provider and that had been vocalized in the community, and our proposal was accepted.

What are some immediate action items that the Mission will implement with this funding? 

Our first priority with this $2.3 million grant will be to work on the capital items, because they have to be completed by December 31, 2020. This includes renovating the Lawrence Street Shelter to make it ADA* compliant, installing lockers at the 48th Street Center and Lawrence Street Shelter, and building offices at the Lawrence Street Community Center (LSCC).

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For the programmatic portion, our proposal allows us to implement the changes in stages. We will be adding additional staff positions at LSCC and the Lawrence Street Shelter, which will enable enhanced Guest Services at the entrances of our facilities. This will be our first staff expansion. This summer, we will be adding a Neighborhood Engagement Team (NET), which will reach out to individuals experiencing homelessness in the LSCC neighborhood and invite them to come in. As the capital projects are completed, we will also have the opportunity to expand Next Step, a 50-day service that helps men take steps toward stability, by hiring additional caseworkers to serve more individuals. Finally, we will be bringing in a Behavioral Health Specialist.

What changes will we make at the Lawrence Street Shelter to make the facility ADA compliant and more comfortable for clients with mobility impairments?

City of Denver Supports Expansion of Mission’s Emergency Services

We will be redesigning the front entrance of the Lawrence Street Shelter to add a ramp and address other needs at the entrance to provide easy access for guests with disabilities. We will also be adding an elevator that will access all three floors of the building and modifying other areas of the shelter, such as the laundry and community rooms, so that they are ADA compliant.

How do we plan to expand our street outreach in the LSCC neighborhood, and what is the goal of this initiative?

The goal of the NET team is to build relationships with those who are reluctant to engage in our services by providing them with information and an invitation to come to LSCC. The team will also be available at LSCC to be a familiar face for our guests.

What are some other capital improvement projects that we have planned?

We will be adding office space at LSCC to expand our intake process and make space for the Behavioral Health Specialist and other outside service providers.

In what ways do we plan to expand our behavioral health services?

Having a Behavioral Health Specialist (BHS) will help us better serve clients who are experiencing mental health issues or behavioral issues and connect them to important resources. The BHS will also assist our staff by providing them with strategies to work with individuals who may struggle in our environment.

What additional staff positions do we plan to create with this funding, and how will those positions improve our services?

Additional staff allows us to reach more individuals and spend more time with individuals who are ready to engage in change. In addition, adding staff members to the front desk at LSCC and the Lawrence Street Shelter will help us provide consistent service to our guests, volunteers and donors.

Will you share about the new storage units that are being added to two of our facilities?

Some of the challenges that individuals experiencing homelessness face is their personal items being misplaced or taken or having personal items that they do not want to part with. Consequently, they have to make a choice between staying outside with their items or coming inside. The first set of lockers will be installed at the 48th Street Center, a shelter that is owned by the City of Denver and operated by the Mission. The grant will provide 500 lockers for individuals accessing this facility overnight to store their items while they shower and sleep. 

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The second set of lockers will be installed at the Lawrence Street Shelter and will be available for individuals who are referred by a NET team member or a caseworker to encourage them to come inside and engage in our services.

Are there any other ways that the Mission will be able to impact the homeless community through this grant?

With the additional space available at LSCC and the Lawrence Street Shelter, we will be able to invite other providers in to meet with our clients. We currently have representatives from the Veteran’s Administration, Denver Human Services and substance abuse providers, but in the past, we struggled to find private areas for them to meet with clients. The additional space will allow them to meet in a private space that is easy to access. It will also be useful when we partner with the Department of Health for vaccination clinics. Once the space is built, we hope to expand our group of providers to include services for youth, seniors and others.

How will this grant affect our overall strategy in helping people who are experiencing homelessness get off of the streets?

Our goal is to meet individuals at their points of need. This grant will allow us to reduce some barriers that have kept some individuals from engaging in our services.

* The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination statute which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life.

Tracy Brooks is the senior director of emergency services at Denver Rescue Mission and oversees the Mission’s shelter facilities and the Lawrence Street Community Center.