“I don’t know where my family would be without the support and services that the housing authority offered,” said Tanya Rivera, single mom of four small children. “They helped us find a home for all of us and made my struggles a bit easier, so me and my kids wouldn’t have to wonder if we were going to have to survive on the streets during what is going on right now (the COVID-19 pandemic). I am truly grateful for the support and how they helped me and my kids.”
Denver Housing Authority’s vision statement maintains that every individual or family shall have quality and affordable housing in communities offering empowerment, economic opportunity and a vibrant living environment. This vision has remained intact throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, in which DHA worked to provide affordable housing, safe and healthy communities and maintain thriving neighborhoods.
In addition to the mandate of its charge to provide affordable housing, DHA also provides myriad resident services. DHA services promote education, employment, economic self-sufficiency, community building, youth development, aging in place and even homeownership. These services build DHA communities and foster resident leadership skills, which in turn grow self-esteem and feelings of self-efficacy that lead to creating communities that reflect the needs, desires and ideas of our residents. All these efforts build social capital and build better communities for Denver.
In short, the Denver Housing Authority is in the business of creating homes and elevating families to fulfill their dreams and become self-actualized.
Keeping residents safe during the pandemic. During the pandemic, DHA forged ahead in delivering for our residents, staff and the community at large. Below are some concrete ways DHA stayed the course in a time of turbulence:
• Delivered more than 22,000 boxes of food to residents;
• Delivered COVID-19 care packages to all public housing units;
• Received $58,000 in COVID-19 support donations and grants;
• Received $160,000 for holiday gift cards for children in 2020;
• Received $145,000 for holiday gift cards for children in 2021; and
• Launched Wellness Wednesdays for staff, which provides health engagement events, information, resources and ongoing COVID-19 safety procedures.
Elevating soft skills and mastery. The services that DHA provides to residents are dependent on the staff, their skills and mastery. The DHA team evolved, grew, learned and mastered new skills to assist the agency and residents daily.
• Fourteen employees received virtual Leadership Training certificates.
• Five employees received virtual Master’s Training certificates.
• DHA developed a cybersecurity program to combat against external cyber threats.
• The authority increased the executive communications team to accommodate increased messaging and awareness for residents, partners and all DHA constituents.
Growing our partnerships in business. DHA is the first of its kind to create social business enterprises and foster these partnerships. These partnerships have created educational opportunities for youths and created jobs in Denver communities. Additionally, these enterprises are becoming a model across the nation for responding to needs in our communities and creating new opportunities for residents. DHA:
• Enrolled 184 youths in the Youth Employment Academies (creative and culinary academies), with a 94% completion rate.
• Opened a new social enterprise under YEA – a culturally relevant grocery store, Decatur Fresh Market, located in Sun Valley neighborhood.
• Secured a contract with Meow Wolf to be the primary grab-and-go food provider.
• Secured healthy food for Denver Kids grant to provide healthy food services in west Denver.
• Created the Sun Valley Cookbook with residents’ recipes.
• Created the Community Connector Handbook as a guidebook for residents.
• Implemented harvest and multicultural block parties.
Educating toward employment. Through DHA’s education and employment programs, 160 participants received job readiness/soft skills training, 41 participants secured employment and 83 participants earned a nationally recognized certificate in the past year. Below are some additional concrete ways that DHA demonstrated the value and intersection of education, health and employment:
• Provided 21 paid youth internships.
• Held the 9Health Fair in the Mariposa neighborhood.
• Distributed 215 backpacks to kids.
The data tells a story of support and ignites hope that with the right support and services mothers like Ms. Rivera can receive the upper hand they need in the most challenging times any of us has seen.
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