Think about this for a minute: Each and every one of the single-parent families residing at Warren Village arrived there after experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity. And 95 percent of those living in one of the nonprofit organization's 93 apartments in Denver's Capitol Hill neighborhood are moms in their early- to mid-20s with custody of at least one child.
They’ve spent days, weeks or months living on the streets or couch surfing—that is, bouncing from location to location with the length of stay dependent on a host’s willingness or ability to shelter them. Many are escaping abusive relationships; others have lost the jobs that enabled them to keep a roof over their heads and food on their tables.
At Warren Village, they receive low-cost, safe and stable housing while participating in programs designed to help them achieve sustainable personal and economic self-sufficiency. Rent is based on a resident’s income and ranges from $25 per month to 30 percent of their total income.
“(Prospective) residents show up in all manner of ways—from referrals to knocks on our door,” says president and chief executive officer Ethan Hemming. “But it’s important to note that we’re not an emergency shelter; we are a very intense program.”
To become a Warren Village resident, individuals must complete an online application that requires them to demonstrate that they are motivated to set and achieve goals. They must have a high school diploma or GED; be 18 or older, and have
custody of one or more children. In addition, they’re asked to find full-time work or be a full-time student, be willing to attend three life skills classes per month, and participate in Warren Village’s seven-week wellness initiative. They’re also asked to volunteer for two hours per month.
The average stay at Warren Village is 22 months, and late in 2020, when information for this story was gathered, 93 percent of its apartments were occupied. This month, as Warren Village marks its 47th year, 7,688 families will have been served.
“Our number one thing is to get families stabilized when it comes to housing, especially because young children are involved,” Hemming adds. “A lot of our parents have escaped abusive relationships, or have lost their source of income. They want to be stable, contributing members of society; they just need help in getting the tools to do so.”
An entry on the Warren Village website underscores how important this is. It states that “Living in poverty and homelessness is not only stressful but can result in feelings of fear, hopelessness and prioritization of daily survival over long-term planning.”
The COVID-19 pandemic, Hemming says, made life even harder for “folks who already were in a tough spot. In the early days, when everyone was afraid to go outside, we rolled out telemedicine options and installed Wi-Fi in the building because all of the college courses had gone online and our residents needed to access them.”
A year into it, people are adjusting, but issues remain. “Our graduates are having the toughest time because of job losses and looming evictions,” Hemming says. Help is found through Warren Village’s two-year-old Alumni Engagement Network, where a team of peer resource navigators and a licensed clinical social worker work with the alums as they negotiate opportunities and challenges.
Hemming, whose family has been in Colorado since 1891, was born in Colorado Springs and raised in the family cabin in nearby Cotopaxi. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Colorado College, he went on to earn a master’s degree from Colorado State University.
He met Nicole, his wife of 20 years, when they were both employed by Denver Public Schools, he in the homeless education program and she as a specialist in teacher training and restorative justice practices. “Our parents had known each other since before Nicole and I were born,” Hemming recalls, “yet we didn’t meet until 27 years later when we were both in DPS.” He went on to spend four years as executive director of the Colorado Charter School Institute, growing its student population to 15,000 and focusing on meeting the needs of at-risk students, before joining Warren Village in May 2016.
“I hadn’t intended to make a switch,” he says. “It just happened.” But he’s glad he did. “Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined having the passion for something like I do for Warren Village. Our founders saw into the future and as its steward, I have to build on the founders’ goal of being flexible, tenacious and great.
“We are part of the solution,” He concludes, “but we want to be more.”
Warren Village took shape after Dr. Myron Waddell, a physician practicing in Denver’s inner city during the 1960s, and members of Warren United Methodist Church became alarmed by the increasing number of single-parent families and the accompanying high rates of poverty, family violence and homelessness. It was incorporated in 1969 and opened its doors in 1974. Its core values are accountability, collaboration, empowerment, excellence, inclusion and integrity.
The Details Warren Village
1323 Gilpin St.
Denver CO 80218
Joanne Davidson first became acquainted with Warren Village in 1992 when she profiled it for The Denver Post’s Season to Share campaign. Since then, she has covered many of its fundraising events.
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