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Our Town: Homelessness in Denver

Our Town: Get Involved

Want to help? Find out what items shelters need donated, what services are expanding, and what you can do the next time you see someone holding a sign.

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Wish List

It takes more than canned food and secondhand clothing to stock the shelves of Denver’s homeless shelters. Here, 10 perpetually in-demand items you can donate.


Spare Change

You’ve probably heard you shouldn’t give to panhandlers because your donations are better spent at an organization. But what if it is a cold night? Or she has a baby? Or they have a pet Lab? Or you just don’t want to drive past another person without acknowledging that you see them? Here are five ways to help out.

  1. Buy $10 gift cards to King Soopers to give to panhandlers requesting money for food.
  2. Distribute individual bus and light-rail passes from 10-ride Local RTD booklets ($20 each).
  3. Stock your backseat with bottled water or protein bars to pass out at intersections.
  4. Carry a baggy of dog treats in your purse or briefcase (but never feed someone’s canine companion without permission).
  5. Dial 2-1-1 if you see a citizen outside on a dangerously frigid day; Mile High United Way will help him or her find safe refuge indoors.

Growth Spurt

Three local providers are adding services and space to help those in need.

Father Woody’s Haven of Hope
Helps By… Offering hot meals, a clothing bank, private showers, laundry, and job training
It’s Adding… An adjacent four-story building, set to open next summer, with additional rooms for services and an outdoor guest area
Denver Rescue Mission
Helps By… Providing various shelter options as well as transitional programs, family services, and job skills instruction
It’s Adding… The Lawrence Street Community Center, which was scheduled to open last month (a judge’s injunction over the zoning of the site has stalled the project) with daytime facilities, including bathrooms, showers, an expanded kitchen, and a courtyard
The Gathering Place
Helps By… Operating a daytime drop-in center for women and their children and transgender individuals
It’s Adding… Two expanded programs in job readiness training and new initiatives with Art Restart, a social enterprise program in which participants make art for products such as note cards

Give And Take

Having the perfect outfit for a job interview or the first day of school can be crucial—and thanks to two local organizations it can happen, no matter your income.

Clothes To Kids of Denver
Who’s It For: Any child—preschool through 12th grade (or working on a GED)—living in the Denver metro area who qualifies for free or reduced lunch (that’s 69.7 percent of Denver Public Schools’ students), as well as families dealing with crises, such as natural disasters or homelessness.
How It Works: Kids can take home a week’s worth of clothing (five shirts, four bottoms, five pieces of underwear, five sets of socks, one pair of shoes, and one jacket). “We really hope kids enjoy the shopping experience but also feel a sense of dignity, too,” says executive director Katie Jones Jadwin. “They’re not just being handed a bag. They can be choosy.”
By the Numbers: In 2014, CTKD gave out 4,522 wardrobes and 22,000 pairs of underwear and socks each. About 550 kids shop at the store each month.
How to Help: Donate gently worn items or put your folding skills to use by volunteering to sort through donations, tag items, and arrange displays.
Dress For Success Denver
Who’s It For: Low-income women and women at risk of poverty or homelessness who are in need of a professional wardrobe for interviews or jobs. Women are referred to DFSD by homeless shelters, domestic violence agencies, and workforce centers. “We focus on building their confidence,” says program director Amara Martin. “This is much more than just dressing people. We’re showing them an image of what they can be.”
How It Works: During hourlong appointments, women work with stylists to pick out outfits and meet with a trained career coach. Once they land a job, they are invited to join a monthly women’s networking group, which offers financial training and a complete outfit at every meeting.
By the Numbers: Last year, 1,500 women shopped at the boutique; 85 percent were single mothers.
How to Help: Drop off still-in-good-condition professional attire, or volunteer your time. You can shop with women one-on-one as a stylist; sort through inventory and stock the racks; or provide help as a career center coach.

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