“I’d never been homeless before. I didn’t know where to go; I didn’t know what to do. I just walked around and waited for something to happen.” Scott didn’t grow up experiencing poverty. He lived what many people would call a “normal” life. He had a place to call home. A job. A family. Bills. Responsibilities. It’s understandable then, that when Scott became homeless, he had no idea of how to navigate his situation.
“Being homeless is hard,” says Scott. “And when you’re homeless and it’s cold, life becomes so much more difficult. I didn’t know what to do to stay warm, so I would spend my days riding the 16th Street Mall bus because it was free and it was warm.”
With the addition of our Lawrence Street Community Center just over three years ago, we are able to welcome more people off of the street than ever before. And between our three Denver shelters, we can provide up to 1,000 people with a safe, warm place to sleep every night. “Once I found out about the Mission, if the temperature was going to drop below freezing,” says Scott, “then I always slept at the shelter.” And as he grew more familiar with our staff and services, Scott started getting more involved.
“Eventually, I joined Next Step, and from there, I moved to the New Life Program at The Crossing.”
“Being homeless is hard. And when you’re homeless and it’s cold, life becomes so much more difficult.”
Scott isn’t alone. Over the last two years, 1,116 people have enrolled in Next Step. We talked to Debra Butte, director of intake and diversion, about why so many people are enrolling. “Every one of our staff members are equipped to encourage and inform our guests about Next Step,” she said. “Our goal is to be a service where the masses can come for help.”
Next Step offers men staying in our shelter system—which includes our Lawrence Street Shelter, the 48th Street Center and our newest edition, the Holly Center—with the opportunity to create a tailored path toward a permanent and sustainable living situation. Each Next Step community member is paired with a case worker, assigned a permanent bed and given a storage locker. Members work closely with their case workers to prepare an individualized plan suitable to their specific needs.
At our Lawrence Street Shelter and community center, we offer help outside of Next Step—meals, shelter (for men), laundry, restrooms, clinic services, and showers. But the goal is not for people to live in shelters. Instead, we want to encourage people to begin creating goals that put them on a path toward permanent living situations.
Sometimes, that path begins with small steps, like getting a Colorado I.D. or enrolling in Medicaid/Medicare. For others, their path begins by learning how to write a resume or maintain a job—showing up on time and dressing appropriately. For our aging or disabled members, their path starts by filling out mounds of paperwork required to obtain Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Income.
Next Step is a vital service during the cold winter months. More people come through our doors this time of year than any other season. And when people show up seeking warmth, we want to be able to provide them with more than a blanket, a hot meal and place out of the cold. Of course, we want to do that, and your donations help us. But your gifts are also empowering us to do more; we’re training case workers to have conversations with people experiencing homelessness to help them find a path home.
Your Donations Can Provide A Pathway Off The Streets
Make a gift to provide a second chance for people like Scott.
How Next Step Works
IT STARTS AT THE DOOR
We serve nearly 1,000 people in need every day at our Lawrence Street Shelter and community center, and every employee is equipped to inform guests about our Next Step community and our other various programs. Appointments are made for one-on-one intake sessions.
Next Step has two intake coordinators. Each coordinator spends 30 minutes with interested guests, getting to know them and evaluating how we can best meet their needs.
On move-in day, Next Step community members are assigned a permanent bed and a storage locker. And they meet their case worker for the first time.
MEETINGS WITH CASE WORKERS
At the Lawrence Street Shelter, we have three case workers, each with a specific area of focus— assisted living, social security and employment. Case workers develop individualized and unique plans for every next step member.
the exit plan
It takes a village to help people move from the street into housing. Next Step is the entryway into that village. We are connecting people with programs and services throughout the metro region, like our very own New Life Program, Salvation Army’s Harbor Light Recovery Program, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, and many more.