A human services story from Denver
When April arrived at Warren Village in Denver, Colorado, she had a six-month old son; a violent, unrepentant husband; and nowhere to go. Offering affordable housing and a range of services, Warren Village addressed her needs—and also her dreams. Yes, she wanted a home, but she also wanted an education.
Unbelievably, at Warren Village, which received a grant in 2014–2015, this kind of breakthrough change was possible. With her housing problem solved, April participated in life skills classes, including a leadership development program; she volunteered extensively. Her son enrolled in programs offered on-site. Today, she has a BA in economics and BS in business administration from Colorado State University.
Her story is surprising, not only for its achievement, but also its setting. For most Americans, Denver doesn’t bring to mind the image of homeless people. “They’re hidden,” says Executive Director Sharon McKnight. “They live in cars. They live on people’s floors. One of our residents would give her babies to someone, then ride the bus all night.” There are 12,000 homeless people in Denver; 62 percent are families. Since 2004, the number of homeless children has increased 300 percent.
Accordingly, Warren Village focuses on single-parent families and addresses the whole spectrum of human needs and potential. Residents are required to be in school or working; they attend at least three life skills classes a month; their children get the help they need and the benefit of seeing parents achieve. The College-to-Career program, which McGowan supports, guides parents through coursework leading to specific careers offering living wages (“at least $18 an hour” in Denver, McKnight explains). Along the way, the program has seen some tweaks, McKnight admits; when experience showed that some parents needed more than two years to complete a community college program, Warren Village redefined the parameters. Now parents can apply for a third year of housing and support.