"The concept behind the initial one-year arrangement is to learn more about what each does, and look for the synergies that we can take advantage of to become more effective," says Hugh Burns, vice president of operations at Denver Rescue Mission. "Individually, both organizations have been effective for years, but if we come together, we can do more hand-in-hand. We're calling it a sort of dating relationship."
DRM, which serves hundreds of thousands of individuals a year, offers emergency shelter and food, life-building services and transitional housing to individuals who have experienced homelessness.
For nineteen years, DenverWorks has helped more than 30,000 individuals who have experienced homelessness, incarceration and addiction not just find work, but build careers. For the past fourteen years, DenverWorks has been located at 2828 Speer Boulevard, where it offers instruction in resume building and interview skills, a work-clothing closet, a computer lab, food bank and peer mentoring.
Next month, DenverWorks will move into the DRM's Ministry Outreach Center at 5725 East 39th Avenue, which also houses the DRM's donation-processing program, clothing room and food pantry. For the next year both organizations will continue their current operations, while also considering expanded collaborations in the future. "We're going to be exploring and getting to know each other over the next year to see how we're able to complement each other and see if there's more to do in the long term through a more formal partnership," says Jenifer Reynolds, DenverWorks' executive director.DenverWorks initiated the partnership after discussing adding programming to address housing and addiction needs to fully support an individual's self-sufficiency; DRM already has programs to address these issues. "Employment is a key piece to someone being sustainable. But that is only one piece of somebody being sustainable. It's a huge piece, but just one," says Reynolds.
DRM has four levels of programming: emergency services that house and feed the immediate homeless; its New Life program, which helps people with addiction and other obstacles get their lives back; the Star Program, a transitional housing program for people who have an income via a job or government benefits; and Family Ministries, which helps families out by providing one month's rent and a housing deposit to prevent homelessness.
Burns says the long-term career programming of DenverWorks could help individuals in the Star Program or Family Ministries; DRM has considered adding such programming in the past. In fact, DRM's staff often sends people to DenverWorks for its services. "For years DenverWorks has excelled in that area and we think that we can learn from them and gain insight into achieving that better in our programs," Burns adds.
During this first year, the move won't change either organization's programs, except for one: DenverWork's working-clothes closet will be closed until April, while it helps DRM refurbish its clothes boutique.This isn't the only change for the Denver Rescue Mission. DRM's administrative offices will be moving this spring; it had to sell its current administrative building at 3501 East 46th Avenue because it was condemned by the state for the renovation of I-70. Construction on a new, $8 million administrative facility in northeast Park Hill, right across the street from its current programming building, The Crossing, began this past April and is being financed by the money DRM received for the sale, plus favorable tax-exempt financing and donations designated for the project.
Whether this courtship between DRM and DenverWorks leads to a marriage remains to be seen. In about a year, the two organizations will sit down and discuss where their relationship is going. But Reynolds hints at a happy ending: "We wouldn't have made this decision to move offices if we weren't optimistic about it being a longer-term relationship and partnership." Have a tip? E-mail [email protected]