Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.
Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.
Halfway through Denver's 10-year plan to end homelessness, there's been significant progress despite one of the worst recessions in history.
Panhandling on the 16th Street Mall has decreased 83 percent since 2006, according to the fifth annual report by Denver's Road Home, released Wednesday.
The number of chronically homeless in the city and county of Denver dropped to 343 in 2009 from 942 in 2005. More than 1,900 units of affordable housing have been developed. And 720 families and seniors have been mentored out of homelessness in partnership with the faith community.
Because of this success, Denver's Road Home on Tuesday was named the top nonprofit organization in Colorado by the El Pomar Foundation of Colorado Springs, one of the largest private foundations in the Rocky Mountain West. The prize was a $50,000 grant.
"This reminds us that there couldn't be a more important time to have a plan," said Amber Callender, executive director of Denver's Road Home. "We surprised even ourselves at how successful we've been."
Mayor John Hickenlooper's plan wasn't a slam dunk at the start. In October 2003, when he appointed a 36-member panel to figure out how to end homelessness within a decade, "some people begged him not to say he'd end it," Callender said.
Not only did the idea seem outlandish, but some of the people on the commission — especially the homeless advocates and the business people — did not trust one another.
"At the first couple of meetings, the two opposing sides didn't feel there could ever be a middle," recalls Richard Scharf, president and CEO of Visit Denver, who was part of those initial meetings. "But as time went on, we either wore each other down or decided it was time to come closer to the middle, to have an understanding."
For Scharf, part of that process was putting a human face on homelessness.
"A lot of times there are generic ideas about what homelessness and panhandling are," he said. "When we took a closer look, the business people started to say, 'Wow, we're talking about human beings here. There's a reason why someone may be homeless, like a medical situation.' "
Today, Denver's Road Home — a collaboration that includes the Downtown Denver Partnership, the Mile High United Way, city government and individual donors — is a national model. Together, they've raised more than $46 million.