Sacred Heart House of Denver 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 non-profit organization for charitable and educational purposes.
OUR CONTINUUM OF SERVICES
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.
Today, a 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 IN-HOUSE STABILIZATION PROGRAM
Through its In-House Stabilization Program, Sacred Heart House of Denver provides temporary housing and emergency services to meet the basic human needs of these women and children. Through individualized case management and referrals to community resources, women secure housing and address the issues that led to their homelessness.
Twice-weekly Life Skills classes, presented in collaboration with other Denver service providers, teach the six mothers with children and three single women residing at Sacred Heart House of Denver at any given time problem-solving skills. They offer information on such subjects as conflict management, parenting, budgeting, resume writing/interview skills, abuse/domestic violence, personal growth/self-esteem and health and nutrition to enhance their stabilization.
Housed in a relatively small building, Sacred Heart House of Denver provides temporary housing and supportive services in a warm, homelike atmosphere, allowing residents to feel as comfortable as they would feel in a loving home. Responsibility is emphasized through participation in evening and Saturday chores. After 30 to 60 days, with frequent case management meetings and the support of dedicated staff, a resident who is committed to self-sufficiency is ready to move to stable housing, usually a transitional housing program. If her housing is not immediately available, a case manager helps her arrange an interim stay at a collaborating agency. When she moves, she remains connected to Sacred Heart House of Denver as part of the Follow-Up Program.
OUR FOLLOW-UP PROGRAM
In 1987, in response to repeated requests for help to build on the stabilization reached during their residency, Sacred Heart House of Denver responded to former residents’ needs by establishing a Follow-Up Program. It is this program that makes the agency unique and sets it apart from other service providers: It is unrealistic to expect women, who have had the isolation of their homelessness diffused by a caring staff, to survive independently after a short stay in temporary housing.
The Follow-Up Program provides a venue for Sacred Heart House to help former residents find solutions to problems, minimize failures and celebrate successes (and provide a box of groceries when food runs low before payday!), while they move forward in their stabilization. As they move to stable housing, the Follow-Up Program helps women reestablish homes by providing furniture and household items, as they are donated to the agency. Ongoing support---a periodic newsletter, holiday help, emergency food, financial assistance, crisis management and resource referrals---help more than 1,000 former residents remain in their homes, increase their stability and avert future homelessness.
OUR TRANSITIONAL HOUSING PROGRAM
In 1999, Sacred Heart House of Denver expanded its services to include a Transitional Housing Program. With funds from Denver’s Housing & Neighborhood Development Services and Mile High Housing Fund, the agency purchased six condominium units in southeast Denver. Women enrolled in education programs or with sustainable employment are eligible upon completing the In-House Stabilization Program. The Transitional Housing Program provides up two years of supportive housing for single mothers to pursue their education/employment goals. With weekly case management, they address issues that have impeded their success in the past and develop critical budgeting, time/household management and parenting skills; they become employable and move to more permanent stable housing.
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 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.
The 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.
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.
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.
During the 2017/2018 Fiscal Year, Sacred Heart House of Denver was supported by foundations (59%), individuals (25%), faith-based organizations (6%), business organizations (3%), Caring Connection – workplace giving (3%), interest and investment income (2%), unrealized gain on short term investments (-7%), unrealized mortgage payable (6%) and rental income (3%). Sacred Heart House of Denver submits applications to foundations, corporations and faith-based organizations each year. Cultivating new donors within these groups is always a priority. The agency also has many individual donors, who have supported its mission for over 38 years. Sacred Heart House is committed to keeping its programs worthy of their continued support and attractive to new ones; fundraising efforts are expanding through the board of directors and social media.
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 CONTRIBUTION TO THE 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 women and children 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.