Denver Nonprofit Quietly Opens New Homeless Community, Replaces CEO | Westword

Denver Homeless Nonprofit Quietly Opens New Micro-Community, Replaces CEO

Denver's largest nonprofit for transgender and nonbinary homeless individuals parted ways with its CEO before opening the city's newest micro-community.
Former Gathering Place CEO Megan Devenport left her position in February, ahead of the organization opening the city's newest micro-community.
Former Gathering Place CEO Megan Devenport left her position in February, ahead of the organization opening the city's newest micro-community. Bennito L. Kelty
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Denver's largest homeless service provider for the transgender and nonbinary communities has been busy since February, opening a new micro-community while also replacing its CEO.

The Gathering Place is one of the three nonprofits tapped by the City of Denver to run a micro-community, a grouping of shack-like units for people to transition out of homelessness. According to the organization and Mayor Mike Johnston's office, people quietly began moving into the site at 1375 Elati Street in the Golden Triangle on March 20. Elati Village, as the 44-unit micro-community is known, extends the Gathering Place's mission by serving only women, transgender and nonbinary homeless residents, mostly coming from encampments.

When the site opened privately two weeks ago, it did so under new leadership at the Gathering Place, as former CEO Megan Devenport left in February. The Gathering Place didn't announce Devenport's departure, but announced the appointment of interim CEO Heather Beck in a February 21 press release, adding that her promotion takes place as "the organization is aligning around a renewed vision of services and programming."

The Gathering Place won't comment on Devenport's departure.

"As a matter of policy, the Gathering Place does not discuss personnel matters," says Kaitlin Cook, vice president of development for the Gathering Place. Devenport did not respond to requests for comment.

"This leadership change did not affect the operation of Elati Village," Cook says. "Heather has been the primary service lead on this project from the beginning, and remains in that role."

According to Cook, Beck was appointed because her vision for Elati Village lines up better with the mission of the Gathering Place.

"She has been central to developing our expanded program model for the last four years and is now leading the program model for Elati Village in collaboration with currently and formerly unhoused people and community partners," Cook says of Beck.

Mayor Johnston held a groundbreaking for the site in early November, with Denver City Council approving a $1.5 million contract with the Gathering Place; plans called for the site to open in December. However, like the rest of the House1000 sites, the opening was delayed several times.

The Elati Village began welcoming residents who were moved out of encampments on March 20. The City of Denver did not announce the site opening publicly, in order "to protect the community and residents it serves," according to Jose Salas, a spokesperson for the mayor's office.

The director of residential programs for the Gathering Place, D'Wanna Powell, says the "majority of our participants [in Elati Village] are part of the encampment resolution initiative. Some of our clients are also being referred from various community agencies assisting unhoused individuals."

As of Monday, April 1, the site still had room to take in more residents; people are continuing to be referred and moved in, according to the Gathering Place. Denver's Department of Housing Stability is managing referrals, with encampments being the main referrals.

According to the Gathering Place, Beck led the efforts to develop the program model for Elati Village, which is said to offer its homeless residents "case management, housing navigation, supportive services and wellness programs to support members’ transition into permanent housing."
click to enlarge Elati Village in the Golden Triangle.
Elati Village was completed and opened on March 20.
Chris Perez
Beyond Elati Village, Beck is "helping us crystalize and codify" the "renewed vision of services and programming" for the organization as a whole, the Gathering Place said in its February 21 press release.

"Our services have grown exponentially over the past several years. We’ve changed from only a 'drop-in' day shelter to a more comprehensive care model, including housing with lower barriers to care. We’ve widened our mission to include nonbinary and trans people," Cook says. "As we make all these changes, we are renewing our vision and are grateful to have Heather Beck’s leadership during this transition. In her four-year tenure, she has shown that she is a leader that is well-suited to help us make these changes."

Devenport worked as the CEO of the Gathering Place for a year; her LinkedIn profile says that she left her position in February. She currently works as an adjunct professor for the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work and as an affiliate professor with Metro State University, according to LinkedIn.

In the months before signing on to run a micro-community, the Gathering Place had been dealing with a homeless encampment surrounding its main offices at 1535 High Street. Nearby residents complained that Devenport wasn't doing enough after telling her directly about fears of violence and vandalism, which led Denver Police to carry out what they called a "soft" sweep in September.

From 2020 to 2023, the Gathering Place ran a 24/7 non-congregate shelter for women, transgender and nonbinary homeless individuals at the former Rodeway Inn Motel at 4765 Federal Boulevard. As many as 140 people found housing after staying at the shelter before it shut down in early 2023, when the Denver Housing Authority decided not to renew its contract with the organization and repurpose the property into permanent housing, according to the Gathering Place.

The Gathering Place brings in between $3 million and $4 million in contributions each year, according to tax records. This is relatively small for a local homelessness nonprofit, but the Gathering Place is one of two nonprofits dedicated to transgender and nonbinary homeless residents along with the Delores Project, which receives about the same in annual contributions.

Beck worked as the vice president of programs and services for the Gathering Place for almost five years. Before that, she worked with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, a major statewide player in homeless resources, for 22 years. 

Elizabeth Ferguson, board chair for the Gathering Place, says that Devenport's departure and Beck's appointment won't change the organization's commitment "to serving the women, transgender, and nonbinary folks and children who need support while they are experiencing poverty,” according to a press release.

“That is central to who we are and will not change," Ferguson says. "But as we take this time to re-envision how to best serve this community, we are grateful for the vision and stability Heather Beck will provide.”

The only micro-community that opened in 2023 was a 54-unit site near the Stay Inn at 12033 East 38th Avenue in Central Park. In early March, the city opened La Paz, a 60-unit micro-community at 2301 South Santa Fe Drive in the Overland neighborhood that is run by the Colorado Village Collaborative.

Plans for a micro-community at 950 West Alameda Avenue are still in limbo; the city has done some digging at the location but has not moved further than that.

Elati Village is in the middle of the Golden Triangle Creative District. Johnson once had two micro-communities planned for the neighborhood, but nixed plans for one shortly after two town hall discussions with Golden Triangle residents. 
An updated All In Mile High micro-community and hotel map in Denver.
An updated map shows the location of the city's micro-communities and hotels being used for the All In Mile High initiative.
Courtesy of the City of Denver
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