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If you’ve driven around Denver in the last six months, you’ve likely had someone offer to wash your windshield at a red light, sell you a rose in a Safeway parking lot, or ask for work as you leave the local Walgreens. For the 38,000 migrants who’ve arrived in Denver since December 2022, there aren’t many other options to make money without a work permit.
So far, the city has spent more than $40 million to assist newcomers—mostly from Venezuela—with much of the funding directed toward temporary shelters that house up to 5,000 migrants per night. But Denver’s resources are stretched paper-thin, and the crisis isn’t over. According to Jon Ewing, spokesman for Denver Human Services, the city could spend upward of $180 million in 2024 if the pace of arrivals continues—and if Denver can’t find enough housing or legal work for migrants to take pressure off the shelter system.
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As the influx of migrants continues, readers have been asking how to best support newcomers. So, we spoke with city officials and nonprofit leaders about various ways Denverites can lend a hand.
1. Donate Money to the Newcomers Fund
While plenty of opportunities exist to volunteer or donate items, Ewing says the biggest impact you can have right now is with your wallet. “I’m never going to tell people to stop donating clothes, but Lord knows we have clothes,” he says. “Right now, I’m pointing people toward the Newcomers Fund.”
The Rose Community Foundation launched the Newcomers Fund when migrants first began arriving in Denver in December 2022 to redistribute all donations to appropriate nonprofits based on guidance from a steering committee made up of city, state, and local nonprofit leaders. The fund prioritizes organizations that are working on a large scale, helping migrants secure temporary or permanent housing, and connecting them to health care. To date, the Newcomers Fund has collected and distributed $1.6 million, and Rose Community Foundation has also raised an additional $700,000 to fund workforce clinics that help migrants apply for asylum or temporary protected status designations that might allow them to legally work in the United States. These applications can cost as much as $545 each, so the fund helps cover these fees, says Katie Peshek, the foundation’s communications director.
Aside from supporting work clinics and covering permit fees, both Peshek and Ewing say that funding housing is another critical focus. Two of the nonprofits the Newcomers Fund supports—ViVe Wellness and Papagayo—have helped migrants locate rental housing, paid their first month’s rent and deposits, and checked in on housed migrants to see if they need other assistance.
2. Donate Material Goods
The city of Denver accepts donations of essential goods for migrants at the Richard T. Castro Human Services Center in Sun Valley. Right now, the center is especially in need of men’s clothing, children’s clothing, shoes, winter gear, socks, and new underwear. (As tempting as it might be to get rid of your kid’s excess Barbies and Hot Wheels, the city asks that donors refrain from dropping off toys and other household goods.) You can drop off items between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday at the garage doors on the north side of the building. The city encourages you to make an appointment prior to arriving by calling 303-514-0643.
Below, a few of the city’s nonprofit partners that are also accepting material donations.
The organization’s Samaritan House is asking for donated hygiene products—soap, shampoo, feminine products, toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, deodorant—as well as gently used clothing for men, women, and children. Items can be dropped off at the warehouse Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on the weekends from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Team members at the Colorado Hosting Asylum Network (CHAN) shelter migrants in their own homes, connect them with health care services, and accompany them through immigration court. CHAN specifically requests gift cards from Walmart, Target, and King Soopers to distribute to migrant families. You can email the organization’s point of contact, Allison, at email@example.com to find out where to send gift cards.
This nonprofit runs multiple ongoing donation drives. If you just upgraded your bedding, consider donating your old linens to the household items drive. The organization is also requesting dishes, pots and pans, and toilet paper. Papagayo also distributes snack bags to migrants; to participate, fill a gallon-size zip-top bag with bottled water, electrolyte powder packs, tuna or chicken salad, nuts (in single packs, if possible), and Fruit Roll-Ups or applesauce packs. Contact the team members to find out where to drop-off your snacks.
3. Volunteer Your Time
Denver Friends Church seeks volunteers to help run its emergency overnight shelter that houses and feeds as many as 30 people each evening when the temperature drops below 32 degrees or more than three inches of snow are expected. The church needs people to help set up sleeping areas in the gymnasium, cook meals, and help with overnight tasks. Find more information on the tasks required here.
The city of Denver also has a form you can fill out if you’re interested in volunteering with migrants. This could involve being asked to help at a shelter, sort clothing donations, and create snack bags.
4. Host a Family
Housing is one of the biggest shortages complicating the influx of newcomers. The Colorado Hosting Asylum Network needs homeowners who are willing to host migrants for up to nine months in a private room as they get on their feet. The organization encourages those interested to fill out a form on their website, and has put together this video explaining more about how the process works.
5. Buy Arts, Crafts, and Food Directly From Migrants
Since early January, Stanley Marketplace in Aurora has hosted a weekly “Finding Their Way” fundraiser where Venezuelan migrants sell goods such as homemade arepas and dog collars from booths, like an expo. The Stanley Marketplace will host the final maker’s market on Tuesday, February 6, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. before the event moves to Raices Brewing Company in Sun Valley on February 13 for a Valentine’s Day–themed fair.
6. Support Businesses That Donate to Migrants
Skip your usual Saturday morning Chick-fil-A run and head to SAME Cafe Denver, instead. The nonprofit and donation-based restaurant has already donated about 2,000 meals to migrants in Denver-area shelters. As a pay-what-you-want establishment, you can choose to mark up your bill when paying. Or, you can contribute directly to a Facebook campaign to help fund SAME’s migrant meals.
Another establishment that has been supporting immigrants and refugees for years is Ruby’s Market on South Pearl Street. Immigrant entrepreneurs stock the shelves with their handmade bags, pottery, jewelry, and more for Denverites to purchase. Ruby’s also runs a food pantry that distributes culturally relevant food to migrants across the metro region.