homeless mother and daughter


Sacred Heart House of Denver helping homeless families and single women, was founded by Catherine Bevanda in 1980 after she learned the convent next to Sacred Heart School in lower downtown Denver had closed. Catherine, who came to Denver to study at Loretto Heights, supported herself by working at an orphanage and at Marycrest Convent, which was operating a skeletal homeless shelter at the time.

Thinking she could expand on that idea in the abandoned convent, she opened its doors to those people in Denver, who, for one reason or another, found themselves homeless.

In 1982, Susanna Kennedy of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth from nearby Annunciation Parish became director. Under her guidance, the mission to serve those who wanted to become self-sufficient developed.

Within a short period of time, this self-sufficiency program gained attention, respect and financial support from the Denver community.

In April 1991, Sacred Heart House of Denver was incorporated in Colorado as a nonprofit corporation to assume the programs and activities of Sacred Heart House of Denver, as well as its assets and liabilities.

Sacred Heart House of Denver offers a continuum of services to homeless families, specifically mothers with children, and single women through its In-House Stabilization, Follow-Up and Transitional Housing Programs. Its purpose is to help these women and their families achieve and maintain self-sufficiency.

Over the past four decades, the programs at Sacred Heart House of Denver have become focused on meeting the needs of Denver’s most vulnerable population:

Single mothers with children and single women experiencing homelessness.

Here are a few articles that have discussed our history:

The Continuum of Services provided through the In-House Stabilization, Follow-Up and Transitional Housing Programs enables them to move to stable housing and achieve and maintain self-sufficiency.

Our Program Evaluation

As reported in Sacred Heart House of Denver’s Year-End Report/Evaluation, the primary indicator of success of the In-House Stabilization Program is the percentage of homeless families and single women who successfully move to stable housing. Sacred Heart House of Denver also considers itself successful when it presents even the opportunity for women experiencing homelessness to stabilize their lives, since many become part of the Follow-Up Program after they leave the House and obtain housing with resources they contacted through the In-House Stabilization Program.

The number of former residents Sacred Heart House of Denver counts in its Follow-Up Program, tracked by the newsletter mailing list, is an indicator of that program’s success: More than 1,000 individuals are living independently with the support of follow-up services. Women in the Transitional Housing Program attain education/employment goals and develop critical skills in budgeting, time/household management and effective parenting, as documented in case notes. Upon leaving the program, they move to affordable housing to work or continue their education.

Our Clients

The homeless families and single women who receive the services of our programs are not usually experiencing homelessness as the result of a single crisis, such as a recent job loss, but rather as the result of more complex issues. Domestic problems and evictions connected to inability to pay rent or mortgage payments lead the list of causes of homelessness for recent residents. (More than half the women served have been victims of domestic violence.) Many women have migrated to Denver in search of employment. Some, particularly single women, are facing the aftermath of substance abuse and chronic physical or mental illness. Lack of job training and education and limited options for affordable housing further complicate their situations. Their lives have been shaped by unhealthy behavior patterns and unfortunate circumstances. By helping women identify and begin to address their issues, Sacred Heart House of Denver enables them to secure stable housing and move toward self-sufficiency.

After a telephone interview with a case manager, a woman comes to Sacred Heart House of Denver for an intake interview and becomes a resident the same day. In her first meeting with a case manager, she sets goals (in addition to securing stable housing) she wants to accomplish during her stay and receives appropriate referrals for housing (including Warren Village, Warren Village First Step, Decatur Place, Joshua Station, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, Marisol Homes, Family Tree) and medical care (Denver Health Medical Center, Stout Street Clinic, Children’s Hospital), according to their needs. Women are required to receive a minimum amount of income from the Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF), Program through Denver Department of Human Services, disability income or employment income, which qualifies them for transitional or subsidized housing.

During the day, infants and toddlers may be enrolled in suitable day care: Margery Reed Day Care Center fills this need for many mothers, while they pursue housing and education/employment goals. Older children are enrolled in neighborhood schools or remain by choice in the schools they attended before they became homeless. Women, especially mothers, are strongly encouraged to increase their education with referrals to Work Options for Women, Emily Griffith Technical College and local community colleges. Women staying at Sacred Heart House of Denver, who are enrolled in education programs or who have sustainable employment, are considered for participation in Sacred Heart House of Denver’s Transitional Housing Program.

Our Volunteers

In addition to having the support of one or more of our community volunteers, whose service is an integral part of our programs. Trained volunteers stay with residents from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m. each evening, and while securing the House, provide support in conversation without judgment, as friends; they also provide child care during Life Skills classes. Some volunteers are former residents, who have empathy for those striving to rebuild their lives. Volunteers cook Sunday dinner, and a volunteer stays overnight at the House once each week. Parents and children from metro Denver elementary schools, individuals and churches prepare dinners and share them with residents throughout each month through a Family Dinner Program. A holiday Adopt-a-Family Program gives families, businesses and churches the opportunity to share their joy with those less fortunate.

The contribution of volunteers’ talents and their commitment to Sacred Heart House of Denver complement the financial support received from foundations, individuals, faith-based and business organizations in the Denver community. This support enabled Sacred Heart House to raise matching funds to secure a Community Development Block Grant for the renovation of its building, which was built in 1886. In December 1994, Sacred Heart House of Denver completed this project.

Our Funding

The Continuum of Services at Sacred Heart House of Denver will never be self-supporting: Services of the In-House Stabilization and Follow-Up Programs are provided free of charge. Women in the Transitional Housing Program pay 30% of their incomes in rent according to HUD guidelines; monthly amounts range from $25 to $300 and help pay Homeowners Association fees, utilities and maintenance. The six transitional housing properties owned by Sacred Heart House of Denver have 20-year interest-free loans from Denver Housing & Neighborhood Development Services. Five of the six loans are forgiven at the end of the 20-year period, if housing is provided in accordance with HUD guidelines.

The fiscal year at Sacred Heart House of Denver extends from June 1st through May 31st. All expenditures are made in conjunction with a fiscal budget approved by the board of directors. Financial statements are audited by Claire Sonnier, CPA, PC, annually.

Our Contributions To Community

In October 2003, (then) Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper appointed members to the Denver Commission to End Homelessness with a mandate to create a plan to end homelessness in ten years. The Commission focused on eight core goals, realizing that “affordable housing and services to help people return to full participation in the community are fundamental.” Sacred Heart House of Denver has worked toward these goals by providing temporary housing with supportive services promoting long-term stability and improved functioning and transitional housing opportunities, as presented in the Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness, aka Denver’s Road Home, even before the Plan was conceived and implemented. To increase its effectiveness in the service provider community and help Denver achieve its goals, Sacred Heart House of Denver is an active participant in the Colorado Homeless Management Information Systems.

The needs of families and single women experiencing homelessness change as their personal situations and the economic conditions in Denver change: It is the goal of Sacred Heart House of Denver to respond appropriately and effectively to meet these needs with the Continuum of Services provided through its In-House Stabilization, Follow-Up and Transitional Housing Programs.

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