Reducing Barriers to Shelter and Services in Denver

Denver's 16th Street Mall.

Denver's 16th Street Mall. Shutterstock

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

A cross-sector team sees a new way forward after being told by homeless that the current model was “fundamentally broken.”

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of four contributed articles on the Government Entrepreneurial Leadership Accelerator program in Colorado, highlighting four teams’ efforts to find new approaches to vexing public policy issues. You can learn more about the program from Route Fifty’s original article on the topic, In Government, ‘Failure Is Just an Opportunity to Learn.

DENVER — You see homelessness every day on your way to work. You think your local government can improve the way this vulnerable population is served—but that’s someone else’s problem. Then, without warning, it becomes yours.

The question that was assigned to our Government Entrepreneurial Leadership Accelerator team was, in essence, “How might the City and County of Denver do a better job of providing temporary housing and shelter options prior to housing access, while at the same time improving access to housing?” From the end of boot camp until pitch night we had only six weeks to find an answer.

Our initial step into fieldwork was touring any day or overnight shelter that was willing to have us: Denver Rescue Mission, Samaritan House, St. Francis, Urban Peak, Volunteers of America Family Motel. At each location we met with staff members and asked candid questions to get a comprehensive picture of the opportunities available to clients and what a client might experience.

After visiting with service providers, our team thought there might be room to improve the outreach process so unsheltered Denverites could better connect with existing services, but first we needed to hear from our target clients. To find people from the homeless community who actively choose to go unsheltered, we attended meetings of a grassroots, homelessness advocacy group as well as conducted empathy interviews with people in Civic Center Park.

What we heard from these groups is that, barring extreme temperatures, they simply would not go to a shelter.  It seemed no amount of outreach would convince these people to access a shelter. In their eyes, it was a model that was fundamentally broken. It was time for us to pivot.

After our round of interviews with these individuals, our executive sponsors at GELA pointed us in the direction of a low-barrier model from New York and encouraged us to think about how Denver might draw from that type of program. Within a day we had discovered a similar model from the west coast called the Navigation Center that would eventually form the substance of our proposal.

Navigation Centers are different because they all but eliminate three common barriers that chronically homeless people face when accessing shelter: partners, pets, and possessions. Navigation Centers allow couples of any gender to sleep in the same room, kennel animals on site, and provide clients with enough storage space to accommodate up to a shipping container’s worth of stuff.

Nowhere in Denver were these barriers being addressed, so we saw in the Navigation Center model an opportunity to get more people on a stable path into housing. From this point forward our focus shifted from improving outreach to bringing a Navigation Center to the Mile High City.

As convinced as we were that we had found the answer to our problem statement, other stakeholders were not enthusiastic initially. We had three weeks until pitch night to change their minds.

It’s tough to say how exactly we were able to get the green light to drive our ideas forward, but we suspect it was a combination of repetition and necessity. Every time we brought up the Navigation Center it was better received than the last. Every time we reminded stakeholders of our project deadline, resistance dissipated. Clock ticking, we turned our attention to pitch night and worked intensely to craft the right language.

Like many public policy issues, homelessness is difficult to talk about, and pushing for innovation in the space is even trickier. If you believe some part of the system is failing, inefficient, or broken, it can be difficult to communicate  without alienating someone trying to make a difference.

As the members of our team return to our jobs and schoolwork, we can’t say for certain what will happen to our efforts this summer. There’s a long way to go before any part of our proposal will become a reality, but the wheels are in motion and we’re excited for the future.

PREVIOUSLY on Route Fifty:

James Bradbury is a student at University of Colorado Law School.

FEATURED CASE STUDIES
Powered By The Atlas
Expanding broadband access with small cell deployment in City of Ontario
Ontario, CA, USA
Erie County, PA offers all local restaurants free digital tools to plan for safe COVID reopening
Erie County, PA, USA
Integrating Complete and Green Streets for Climate-Resilient Sustainable Streets
San Mateo County, CA, USA

NEXT STORY: The Future of American Jobs Is Taking Care of the Elderly

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.