In July, we published “The House that Peace Built,” a cover story about Casa de Paz. The nonprofit services detainees at the Denver Contract Detention Facility, a private prison in Aurora that can hold up to 1,500 immigrants who are in the midst of deportation or immigration hearings.
The organization is the brainchild of Sarah Jackson, who came up with the idea to host released detainees, as well as visiting family members, in an apartment across the street from the detention facility. Many of the detainees that were arrested by ICE – Immigration and Customs Enforcement – are from other states and are subsequently transferred to Colorado, meaning that they are far away from family members and support. Jackson’s organization provides them with volunteer visitors, as well as a place to stay and reconnect with loved ones should they be released.
As we noted in our story, however, Jackson’s apartment is tiny – just one bedroom, a living room, a bathroom and a kitchen tucked along a hallway. In the past six months, Jackson says, it hasn’t been uncommon to have ten or more guests cram into the apartment on a single night, with women and men separated between the living room and the bedroom.
“It wasn’t ideal, but it wasn’t horrible," she says. “Nobody ever complained. But I thought, ‘I’d like to give everyone their own bed.’"
Jackson, whose organization is largely funded by a volleyball league she runs (which now has 79 teams and has been recently re-branded “Volleyball Internacional”), toyed with the idea of renting a second unit at the Abrigo Apartment complex.
But following the election of Donald Trump, who ran on a blatantly anti-immigrant campaign, her organization has received record donations, making it possible to look for more spacious living arrangements.
“We’ve received more volunteers and more donations because Trump was elected," Jackson observes.
Casa de Paz usually sees five or six new volunteers show up to its monthly trainings, but Jackson says that there were at least forty people at the first training after November 8. More money has flowed into the organization as well, including checks for as much as $5,000, and online donations that occasionally include cheeky comments like, “Suck it, Trump!”
With the extra donations, Jackson realized that she could think bigger than the apartment complex, and so she renewed her search for a house (which she had, at times, previously attempted without success).
In early December, she found what she was looking for. She immediately told the landlord what she wanted to use the property for, and the landlord was on board with the mission. After the lease was approved on December 20, Jackson posted an update on social media:
Jackson tells Westword that the house has a basement bedroom, bathroom and kitchenette that will be able to accommodate a volunteer family that will, in exchange for free rent, look after the property and be available twenty hours each week to transport people to and from the detention center, bus station and airport.
Guests will use the main floor's bedrooms, living room, dining room and kitchen. And Jackson herself will stay in an attic bedroom.
“It’s the perfect layout," she says.
She’s moving into the property on Wednesday, December 28, when a number of Casa de Paz volunteers will help her move all the furniture from the apartment unit to the house, located two miles from the detention center.
Already, Jackson has received donations of furniture and supplies for the larger space, but she says that there are always smaller items that her organization could use, and encourages interested readers to reach out to her to find out more.