Department of Human Services Will Offer English Classes, Preventative Services

On Thursday, January 31, the Department of Human Services unveiled its strategic framework for the next three years. Going forward, the department, which offers services like child-care support, emergency shelter and financial assistance, will try to address some of the root causes that lead people to come in for assistance and to ensure that fewer people get to the point where they need these services.

For many residents, the department offers a boost at a time when they're most in need.

These services will continue to be available for the approximately 240,000 residents the department serves every year. But the department will also attempt to address issues before they turn into crises.

"What we’re trying to figure out is not only how we can further help people, but also figure out why they’re coming here and how we can get them further upstream," says Julie Smith, the department's communications director. Smith says the department doesn't know if the new strategy will require more funding.

One example of the way the department hopes this new strategy will play out is in its child-welfare work. The department is required to take in children who have been neglected or abused. Now the department is hoping to preempt possible abuse by offering tips and classes for parents to help them deal with difficult situations. By doing so, the department hopes that fewer children will become victims of abuse and neglect, and that its welfare services won't be needed as often.

The department also announced a new community-led immigrant and refugee program that "aims to improve the delivery of services to these communities." The Denver Public Library already offers English courses and citizenship classes through its Plaza Program. The Department of Human Services will begin to offer similar types of classes at its building at 1200 Federal Boulevard.

"We want people to be healthy and connected; that’s the end goal here. And this is the start of that work," says Smith.
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.