On Thursday, Catholic Charities officially opened Denver’s largest women’s-only shelter, providing an additional 150 beds to women facing homelessness in the city. The Samaritan House Women’s Shelter in Northeast Park Hill is the result of a 10-month collaboration between the City of Denver, the Archdiocese of Denver, and its philanthropic arm, Catholic Charities.
The new 32,000-square-foot facility will offer emergency refuge for up to 100 single women on a nightly basis starting September 15. Additionally, the shelter has room for 50 women to enter a 29-day non-medical detox program. If residents stabilize in the 29-day program, they are eligible to transition to a 120-day program at the Samaritan House on Lawrence Street. In combination with existing space at the Samaritan House downtown, the new women’s shelter on Smith Road enables Catholic Charities to provide beds for up to 250 single women each night.
“We’re called to help the neediest among us,” says Larry Smith, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Denver. After several months of research and observation, Smith determined “the gap was for single women,” who experience the most trauma daily on Denver’s streets.
The City of Denver gave Catholic Charities a $1 million, 35-year grant to purchase the Smith Road building and renovate it as a shelter—a project that cost $5.1 million in total. Speaking in front of a packed room at the grand opening on Thursday, Mayor Michael B. Hancock told Smith and Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, “We are your partners. We are never going to stop caring for the poor. This is a big day in the life of our city.”
According to a 2017 point-in-time report conducted by the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative, more than 1,000 single women are facing homelessness on a nightly basis in Denver County. “Few people are aware that single women are one of the fastest growing segments of homelessness in America,” Archbishop Aquila says. “But it is us who must welcome them home.”
Catholic Charities, a branch of the Archdiocese of Denver, will operate the 150-bed shelter for women on the first floor of the new facility. The City of Denver will also remain involved, providing women bus transportation to the shelter and helping with some operating costs.
In order to be closer to the people they serve, Catholic Charities is moving its administrative offices to the second floor of the shelter from its current location on Pecos Street in Highland. The staff is in the process of transitioning out of the Pecos location, and when that building is sold, some of those funds will support the shelter.