Innovate! A Solutions Forum on Housing, Keynote Speech pt1

Innovate! A Solutions Forum on Housing, Keynote Speech pt1


ladies and gentlemen please welcome to
the stage the chief housing officer for Denver economic development and
opportunity Britta Fischer good morning and welcome to the fifth annual Denver
Housing forum I am Britta Fisher the chief housing
officer for the City and County of Denver it’s my pleasure to welcome so
many dedicated individuals to today’s event thank you so much for taking time
out of your busy schedule and being here today I was appointed by Mayor Hancock
and started as chief housing officer last summer it’s an honor to serve the
residents and neighborhoods of Denver working to house our residents and to
keep them housed while our affordability challenges are great you’ll soon hear
from other speakers including marcia brown and mayor hancock that we are
making a difference the community where I grew up
modeled making a difference by caring for our neighbors and for one another
through life’s struggles when I came to Denver nearly 20 years ago it was to
help feed hungry people I worked at Metro carrying a basic services agency
at 18th and downing and the participants there quickly taught me that while they
appreciated the food what kept them up at night was where they were going to
have their kids do their homework or they were gonna get clean and ready for
the day where they were gonna store the food that we had just given them they
were doing everything possible to secure safe and decent housing that their
family could afford those early lessons from Denver residents really fueled my
passions and started me on a career path where I worked with people experiencing
homelessness advocated for affordable housing
provided for financial coaching to help people reach their goals and work to
strengthen the local community and economy in my first 10 months here at
the city two things that drew me to the job remained true
first off partnerships are key to housing throughout my career I’ve seen
the importance of partnerships and delivering housing options for our
community their importance is underscored for me each and every day at
City Hall it takes an incredible roster of organizations people in this room and
beyond to build and preserve units to deliver critical services and to make
the dream of homeownership available for more people a quick look at today’s
attendee list illustrates the variety of partners that we have here today we have
nonprofit housing organizations developers banking groups lenders and
Realtors also in the room are elected officials government staff from HUD the
state and local jurisdictions and we have housing authorities higher
education foundations and many community organization leaders housing takes a lot
of partners secondly the leadership and political support that we have for
housing in Denver today is incredible it’s so rewarding to work for a city
that provides such strong support for housing our local affordable housing
fund is certainly a testament to this to have a mayor and city council that’s
supported not only the fund but the doubling of that fund that’s nothing
short of amazing that is something that we’ve been working on a long time and
something we need to recognize today we are fortunate to have many of
those leaders here including from our Denver City Council we have W Ortega
Robin can each Kendra black Wayne knew and Raphael Espinoza joining us today as
well as Paul Cashman so thank you all for your leadership as I look ahead I
see affordable housing as an important and growing part of our community
infrastructure to meet the challenges tomorrow we must continue to innovate
which is today’s theme the environment for tax credits is increasingly
constrained and competitive to think we need to think about what is beyond the
tax credit as a housing first city how do we continue to perform on
tried-and-true financing models with the bond cap that we have while also working
to innovate and find new paths to deliver affordable housing units and
supportive services what does it look like to produce housing that continues
to contribute to greater equity how can we measure the impact of affordability
for our residents and how do we move the needle in producing more deeply
affordable units for those at the lowest incomes as we explore more avenues to
make affordable projects viable I look forward to talking to many of you and
hearing your ideas we have a remarkable day ahead of us with great panelists and
topics that I hope will inspire you as this is a day of innovation I offer to
you that we should challenge our assumptions and take a moment to truly
examine the possibilities that lie before us as you go through the day if
something inspires you jot it down and at the end of the day we’ll have a
mingling time where I encourage you to share those ideas with one another and
as much as I am excited by those ideas I know
at the end of the day it’s about our ability to come together and act doing
the work that matters in people’s lives matters to me to kick things off this
morning we have a very special treat with our keynote speaker Marsha Brown
Marsha brown understands the value of housing stability in fact I feel very
privileged to have had our paths intersect Marsha is my coworker and
colleague in the city of Denver Marshall was a client of empowered a financial
coaching nonprofit where I was the executive director and Marcia’s story
has intersected with many of our partners in this room and even some of
our sponsors her story affirms that housing and our partners truly make a
difference and that is what we’re striving to do here in Denver we’ll also
hear an update from the mayor this morning sharing our latest momentum as
we’re tackling housing affordability so before moving to these other speakers
I’d like to take a moment to recognize some today’s sponsors first off our
hosting sponsor Wells Fargo thank you for generously supporting this
and to our other sponsors Freddie Mac our luncheon sponsor our breakout
session sponsors Colorado Housing and Finance Authority GHC housing partners
and PK management our breakfast sponsors Denver urban renewal authority
enterprise community partners Lexton McDermott Perry Rose Colorado Health
Foundation and the Denver Metro fair housing center please join me in
thanking our sponsors earlier this week city council proclaims
April as Fair Housing Awareness Week actually one of the jobs that I had
earlier in my career was Fair Housing Program Manager at the Colorado
Coalition for the homeless and so I really want to acknowledge our partners
at the Denver Metro fair housing center they are a partner with us in hosting
conversations on Monday April 29th for residents who are having questions about
housing discrimination and any of their concerns we hope that you’ll help us
spread the word about this important event and there’s more information
available at the center’s exhibit table here today one final piece of
housekeeping we’re on social media today and with the
General Sessions use the hashtag Denver Housing forum so please take the forum
if you’re on social media today all right I want to give a special shout out
to all the staff and city partners and city staff that are here today it takes
lots of dedicated professionals to partner with folks like our next speaker
our sponsor Wells Fargo it’s my privilege to introduce Heath mobis he is
Wells Fargo’s regional bank president for the Denver division he manages a
team of more than 900 financial service professionals who work with individuals
and small business owners to satisfy all of their financial needs and help them
succeed financially Keith’s team serves customers through 57
branches across metro Denver and very important to Keith is his volunteer
service with Habitat for Humanity consistently throughout his 22-year
career at Wells Fargo he’s worked in lots of markets and always found
volunteering with Habitat a great way to meet the people in his community he
serves as a board member for Volunteers of America and Denver Metro Chamber of
Commerce he’s a graduate of the California State University Sacramento
and he and his family have lived in Colorado for the past eight years Keith
believes passionate in the mission of habitat and loves to
align its values with those of Wells Fargo it allows him to bring his passion
for financial education and wellness into transforming lives and
neighborhoods through affordable housing please welcome Keith Louis thank you for having us here today
at Wells Fargo our mission is to help our customers succeed financially as we
actively support our communities and everyone here knows how instrumental
affordable housing is to building communities our corporate social
responsibility focuses on creating economic empowerment opportunities in
underserved communities as part of that we strive to help create affordable and
sustainable housing for lower and moderate income households throughout
Colorado most recently we helped fund and break ground on affordable housing
projects including a 150 thousand dollar denied donation to Habitat for Humanity
of Metro Denver for a whole home build in the new Illyria Swansea neighborhood
the Walnut Street Lofts located in Denver’s Rhyno neighborhood it’s which
is a 66 affordable housing apartment unit where we provided eleven point
seven million dollars in equity and 12.5 million dollars in construction and at
Gateway north and south which is a mixed income project offering a hundred and
fifty three affordable units for tenants making 30 to 60% of ami along with 30
for market rate units for a total of 187 with a healthy affordable food market on
the ground floor one more one of our more prominent programs is our
neighborhood lift program which is a collaboration with neighborhood works of
America and its local network members community resources and how in the
housing Development Corporation our neighborhood lift is the single largest
corporate philanthropic effort of its kind in our company’s history in 2017 we
made another four point eight million dollar commitment an expanded
neighborhood lift for debt for the Denver and Aurora community specifically
in the counties of Denver Adams Arapahoe Douglas and Jefferson all of this all of
this year all funds for the for this Denver and Aurora lift program have been
allocated creating 221 new homeowners in the area by offering homebuyer
education plus matching downpayment assistance programs nationally Wells
Fargo has doubled our investment in neighborhood lifts and we have invested
more than four hundred and thirty million dollars and created 19 thousand
new homeowners since 2012 thank you creating sustainable
communities is extremely important allowing people to spend less on housing
and more on the other necessary living costs while still having access to
employment and education Wells Fargo makes these investments in
home ownership because we know the impact of home the impact of
homeownership that it has on the lives of the communities that we serve when a
family when families have a home of their own they feel more rooted and
secure their children tend to do better in school and are more likely to
graduate and someday own their own home the family gains pride and dignity now I
am pleased to introduce our first keynote speaker of the day Marsha Brown
currently a program administrator at the Denver Human Services Miss Brown has a
multi-faceted career that allows her to serve the communities that she lives and
brings her sharpen skills and experience to help inspire and empower others Miss
Brown teaches others how to maximize the best of social services advocacy
financial health and home ownership she lives as an example to others having had
experiences that she persevered including homelessness the law and the
loss of employment Ms Brown also serves as a resident commissioner on the Denver
Housing Authority board and alumni of Warren village transitional housing and
a storyteller for the close to home campaign to end homelessness please give
a warm round of applause and welcome miss Marsha Brown and direct your
attention to the screen for a short video I’ve always been one of those
people that believe that home is where the heart is
there’s no place like home but what if you’re homeless the next thing I knew I got a phone call
on a Friday night and it’s the hospital this call me so he says your son is he’s
been in a car accident he’s okay okay when people say okay what does that
mean you know people say save up for a rainy day
well I did it just rained longer than I had days right so I was living pretty
good in Austin the market when the market fell how’s home stop sell and so
on I get to the point where I was breaking into church empty trailers
during the winter months just to stay warm I was embarrassed I look up and
down the street to see if I knew anybody for I ran into a food bank or soup line
I couldn’t get benefits because you gotta have a address but I was offered a
position within the culinary industry as a corporate trainer and so I moved out
here expecting to have a job secured and when I got here there had been a
miscommunication between the management and the position was given to somebody
else I was devastating there wasn’t any going back there wasn’t
anything to go back to it I mean at the time I was working at United Airlines we
applied for housing immediately but application as the application we were
either denied or disqualified the most humiliating part of it I think Toob was
seeing my children go through this they didn’t deserve it
having to prepare for school was was it was it was awful
sometimes when their clothes were wet they ended up wearing the same thing to
school for two and three days homelessness it’s hurtful it’s painful
it’s sad and lonely it’s stressful and humiliating that’s just a name of fear what can other people do to help those
experiencing homelessness I always say they can ask ask the person that’s
homeless how they became homeless don’t assume now anybody in their right mind
would have said enough is enough but being in an abusive relationship you
go back and forth until one day by the grace of God he actually left me and the
catch was he left me with all the bills because everything was in my name we all
we say oh I know that story but you really don’t you really don’t I think
it’s it’s hidden because it’s not talked about you know it’s going to be hidden
if we don’t talk about it it’s like I’m an oak table and it’s got all these
layers of ugly paint on it and every time I share my story one of those
layers of ugly paint comes off we all human we all brothers sisters and we all
just stick together seeing people and being involved are the two biggest
things I think that people can really start doing to to make a difference and in this way we can do it together we
can make a difference together because that is what it’s going to take it’s
going to take all of us participating and as we we do it will see change but
you know what we’ve got a lot of work to do Wow that was very impactful good
morning oh my goodness I know it’s close to 8:00 in the morning
but let’s try one more time we have to give spirit fingers that’s okay
but at least show me that you’re alive with me standing in this moment here in
this moment where we all stand together I’m not alone you’re not alone and
really it’s like the elephant in the room how many of us know someone or have
been homeless just to shore hands look around you five years ago you could ask
this question and nobody would raise their hand it’ll be very few people that
knew of someone that was homeless and probably because we thought homeless was
just a person on the corner just the guy that was a veteran or a person that had
substance abuse issues perhaps but in real life I learned a year ago that
behind every person you see there’s eight to ten homeless people now I can’t just be people that we don’t
know because we’re all human right so good morning this morning I want to
share with you you saw part of my story but really the story goes a lot deeper
than the trigger that started my bout with homelessness my son was in a car
accident and this has probably been my goodness is 2019 time flies were you
having fun right that was 2011 Thanksgiving weekend when
a drunk driver hit the car he was a passenger in he had severe muscle and
nerve damage I was a small business owner but really you know you take your
paws in life I moved here from Detroit as a single parent and I want it better
for my kids I said you know what Denver has something to offer is beautiful
of course the mountains you can’t help but love this place and the people I’m
giving care concerned so we planted our feet here and I was doing good I took
that time stamp said I had a good-paying job I decided to am I too far away I
decided to start a non-profit to help people in the community I wanted to be
someone that left a legacy it’s not about me per se it’s about all
of us right so my legacy was I’m gonna help
people I’m gonna help them write grants to build nonprofits in the community and
all will go well and I’m plugging along I’m living a good life my kids is going
to a good school my health was you know we get shaky
sometimes but really at the time of the accident everything was going great
everything I got that call in the middle of Friday night and I saw the three
zeros and my heart stopped follow me for a moment how many of us are parents
first off Wow that’s 90% of the audience even if you have pets like cats or dog
my daughters say her dog is her daughter thus I’m a grand puppy mom but it’s a
big puppy so anyway as a parent we do whatever it takes right you get a phone
call and you say you know what where’s my kids mental check where’s everybody
and my young man was not home he was in the car and it was a devastating time
for us I made it to the hospital some kind of way I have no idea how I got
there I had not experienced trauma of this sorts ever now looking back I
suspect we all might have a life challenge or something that sends us
into a whirlwind a dark circle for me it was this accident I shut my business
down and I lived out my savings account with
lots of support from the community from nonprofits I managed to live about six
seven months and then I was homeless starting to pay the rent and there was
no money so you pack up what you can and you do what you have to my daughter was
in high school getting ready to graduate and so we let her stay with some friends
that’s one person that was homeless my son with the the severe muscle nerve
damage we let him stay with some friends that’s two people that’s homeless and
then I lived in my car that’s three people that’s homeless that none of you
even knew you didn’t see me on the corner you didn’t see my kids just like
now you don’t see those kids in schools or the people that’s working a full-time
job that’s sleeping on someone so far what do you do when you’re homeless I
wasn’t raised to think about homelessness not one time did I say oh
when I become homeless I’m going to do this magical thing live out a cardboard
box or sleep on the streets that is not something that most people think about
so now we’re forced to think about it because the staring us in the face it’s
there it’s here it’s sitting around the table with you that is another human
being the reason we get up the reason we make it through the day it’s because
somewhere inside of us we need to keep moving
most of us want to help others and most of you have we just got to spread the
awareness right and the only way to get that out it’s to talk about it talk
about solutions what happens when people are homeless they’re vulnerable they
don’t maybe maybe they know how to ask for help but asking for help advocacy is
not a part of being homeless I didn’t know I needed to ask for help
initially after you get out there and you’re sleeping in your car you figure
out and you probably want to find something there’s somebody that helped
with homelessness so for me it was being resourceful
I finally got down to my last five dollars and I thought where do you sleep
at right in your car yeah you got a car but where can you park your car can’t
park on the street you’re not able to park in the parks I had no idea that
when they say the park closed at ten o’clock
cuz it’s a park it’s not buildings it’s a park it closed at ten o’clock which
means they asked you to leave right so I took my little five hours and I went to
the drive-in theater thinking I could have one night sleep
right I well the drive-in closes at 2:00 and so I blew my $5 like have you ever
had some money and you said um I’m gonna go get this one thing and you get it and
you find out it really wasn’t worth your money yeah we do that a lot right with
shoes or outfits or you know for me and it’s golf or football tickets in the
game and the team loses and like I could have kept my money
so that’s how I felt at the drive-in theater because it took like in the
morning I needed to see out where to go so finally I got up the
next morning several mornings went to Albertsons in the lhari community and I
was washing up in the bathroom the folks there knew me because I kept coming back
day after day that was a place I felt comfortable and I could probably get me
at least a banana or something and I kept thinking what do you do
so of course I took my little truck I called it a duck duct-tape vehicle it
had more duct tape on it than anything the windows wine window would let up an
oven wouldn’t let down and one door would open another one wouldn’t close
good and if you opened it it may not close but I ended up going on a hunt
I’ve heard about Warren Village went there asked for an application and they
told me it was a three to six month waiting list I thought it was gonna pass
out I literally thought this was something you go you fill out the
application and I don’t know they just give you a key but that’s not how it
works there’s a waiting list well what do you
do when you can’t rest for three to six months for peaceful rest for me it was
like somebody telling me I couldn’t eat you can’t have a good meal for three to
six months not me oh no my mama didn’t raise no fool wait
a minute I’m coming I’m gonna put this application in and I will be here every
day bugging you guys until I get my place so I would call hey just checking
on my application but still in the process is still in the process okay
that’s Monday call back again Tuesday different time hopefully you get
somebody different but that’s what you do right when you’re
seeking shelter so I’m calling and then officially people stop answering the
phone okay I see where this is going I’m coming they’re not gonna go hi I’m
here to check on my application you’re like oh she’s here now yeah lady yeah
just let them know oh they’re processing your okay well let them know I’m out
here and I’ll wait cuz I have nowhere else to be
and I’ll wait finally some 30 days later I got that phone call and my place was
ready oh you have no idea I gathered my kids what seemed like across the globe
one was way over here the other day but we got together I got that key had no
idea what to expect cuz they don’t take you through a
walkthrough you don’t get a walkthrough you get a key and this apartment was
clean warm we laid on the floor we said we’re home we’re home now from there I
said okay we got a place I need to participate in this program and it’s all
about these self skillset trainings and so I met my advocate allison allison
miller who is still a rockstar there and she met me i bet you she looked at me
and said boy this is one tough cookie here cuz the first thing I said was
Allison I need to go get me a job I need to go to work I need to get out of this
rut how we gonna do it and she said well wait a minute I was ready to go and get
a job no I did that I was right in the middle of
my cry see I didn’t understand how far into trauma I was until I actually
returned to my school I actually graduated what a bachelor’s degree
graduate it and went back to the school for the next class
they will excuse me Marsha what are you doing here that’s like I’m here to go to
class they were like you graduated so I don’t
go to class anymore like I couldn’t even comprehend that you mean to tell me I’m
done so what do I do okay Allison told me
breathe I say I’m breathing she say hey I need you to sign up for some of these
classes pick some that’s gonna interest you I’m my girlfriend she said financial
coaching I’m like honey I just got shelter I’m not worried about my credit
report who cares about your credit report she just got into a shelter
transitional housing I don’t know what my credit score is it’s probably one
she’s like nobody has a one okay – but literally she said trust me I did not
know when you are going through crisi you’re so vulnerable that trust doesn’t
come easy it doesn’t trust does not come easy
shame yeah shame comes easy but what happens when you could actually trust
someone for me it opened up a whole new life she said trust me I said okay I
trust you I’m gonna go to your little financial coaching class I’m not buying
nothing she’s like Marsha I don’t think they
selling anything well I just want you to know I’m not buying anything right I
don’t need no IRAs no Rach funds no she’s like just go and then come back
and tell me how it is all right I go I go I meet little Olga she was on my
financial coach young lady I sit there I say hey for this hour
I don’t want nothing I’m not buying nothing I don’t need no IRS no Ross she
was like where did all this come from hi I had it all built up I had to figure
it out you’re not gonna get me to buy it thing she said you know very soft mild
meek and at the time I couldn’t stand that right because there was like why
are you talking so soft you got something to sell I don’t want
to buy it don’t try to take advantage of me I am guarded okay say hey first off
I’m here to work with you not for you okay
I don’t have anything to sell mmm-hmm sure you don’t I kept mine I’m not
buying anything I brought up sure enough the first four months Olga helped me
immensely she doesn’t say why did you do there was no judgment she was like hey
let’s send out letters I’ll print them you mail them you come back you tell me
we’re a partner and we stayed a partner for about two years I went from a four
ten to the first four or six months it was a 40 to 50 point jump I then
became the poster kid you don’t have anything to sell I’m not buying anything
and this thing works she said what’s your goal what’s your
dream I like girlfriend did you not realize
you and transitional housing what’s my dream it’s to get out of transitional
housing she’s like what yeah but after you leave here I think I want to buy a
house oh good well let’s make that happen
this girl is young she has no idea she has no idea what it tastes of my house
apparently she’s dreaming but we kept at it every two weeks I met her for hour
and a half and my score jumped I got educated I figured out those bad guys
are really out to get you you really gotta pay attention
you really got a want to have financial health I became the poster kid from
empower Britta can tell you I was on everything you like Marcia can you do
yep I could tell people that financial health is real financial health is real
it does change your life how do we know so that was one class I see Alison
Alison she’s like Marsha had to go I’m the girl guess what they didn’t have
anything to sell and I would buy anything now that we got that out the
way I’m doing well I say I’m gonna be the poster kid for empower Financial
I’ve got to tell people let me go knock on the doors 92 units
let me see after that I went to see the financial person the housing person
they taught me about family self-sufficiency programs and what it
mean to given the public housing had no idea this wasn’t part of my upbringing
I’m not ashamed to say I didn’t know I asked questions most people thought I
was like an investigator or like from inspections or something like that cuz I
was like okay so what does that acronym mean and they’ll tell you because
everybody has acronyms right I started to apply for public housing got it went
to their orientation they say hey we have programs I’m like oh here we go
I am not buying anything I don’t have any money
how dare you come in here to take advantage of people this was my eyebrow
right this is my platform I am NOT gonna let you take advantage of me at this
stage of the game cuz I am so vulnerable I got to the program and they said hey
FSS you know that financial coach you had we have that same program here I
connected to – I had Olga working with my home buyer person and family
self-sufficiency program and they worked like they had knew each other forever
and the journey continued see my goodness I need to be a poster kid for
this program you mean to tell me I can put money away by paying rent I could
buy a house who thought of that that must be like are you guys for it
where the paperwork at very skeptical do you know anybody too skeptical about
everything you know what just relax so ideally I got there became the poster
kid as you can see this is actually a poster one of the things that happened
was the FSS program allowed me to build money save money for it to
purchase a home my credit score was rising I actually graduated from the FSS
program and I met my next person on a journey Rene works as the director
overhead Denver Housing Authority she was the ear and actually if the
picture is up you could see her in the picture with me
she said hey get involved I say okay I’m a believer I could do this
just show me just tell me and I would tell everybody it works I graduated they
say hey how did you do it as I don’t know I got a job full time job Denver
Human Services guess what my first job was trauma-informed practices I didn’t
even know I was going through trauma when I was going through trauma but then
when I started researching trauma I was like I was right there they embraced me
I was an alumni for warm village still I was teaching for the last three years
where the first three years after I left I was teaching a leadership program they
could not get rid of me to this day I tell Ethan all the time I’m like dude
you’re not gonna ever get rid of me he’s like we’re not trying yeah but I got one
eyebrow it’s a little skeptical you might not let me be the ambassador of
warm village alumni group and we often see each other at events like this why
because that’s in the community it works is building people up the partnership
between warm village empower financial officer economic development which is
now Dee that one and the city this is city
people what a great city to employ people that actually care right so now
I’m a graduate two down several more to go come on let’s do it
so Renee told me I said girl you know what I’m in public housing now love it
there’s a two bedroom one bath townhouse I said all I want is a ceiling fan she
said well you can’t buy one I could buy your ceiling I work I could buy a silly
thing she’s like no no you can’t put up a ceiling fan in public housing where is
that rule that I said one eyebrow she said but you could earn one I’m my
girlfriend I don’t want to do another program I’m the poster kid for
everything I touch I am done she’s like no no but this is the way you could get
a ceiling fan you said you wanted to fill the van what is it she’s like it’s
a resident achievement program another program I got to work I’m volunteering
over here I’m doing things I don’t want to be a part of another program she’s
like no no calm down you can just go and you get credit for the things that
you’re already doing huh for the things I’m already doing okay she gave me a
pamphlet resident achievement I’m going to go see my program coordinator cuz
that’s what you said I had to do I’m trusting that you telling me the right
thing sure enough I go see the person and yeah I’m not an overachiever really
but come to find out it has something like 3,000 points which was unheard of
they were calling people trying to figure out why I had some
and the Silla fan was like 175 it’s like I could have been at a ceiling
fan hmm and they gave me a ceiling fan right I
was like this works I’m gonna be the poster kid it was a resident achievement
program and Renee said okay well come and tell your story
come on and I got I had my very first video at the homebuyers program because
I’m thinking I’m ready to buy a house I wasn’t ready to buy a house I wasn’t
ready I had no savings I’m saving my credit
score wasn’t high enough is getting there we’re working on it
now you just have to have patience man it’s like what is what this process you
guys think people got time I’m trying to get out of here
and sure enough as I worked I graduated from the homebuyers program
I succeeded with my match-funding account I continued to be the poster kid
for financial empowerment and literally what else is next besides getting out of
here well I got trapped because just like they say affordable housing who can
afford affordable housing right we often struggle with what about me I wasn’t 30
to 80 percent Am I that’s more like 90 I didn’t know I was stuck
sure enough being stuck in that market teaches us endurance persistence
resilience I wasn’t alone there was lots of people that couldn’t
afford market-rate and didn’t qualify for affordable housing so all this time
I’m working with a lender and the lender tells me all I could get is FHA Law and
a hundred and thirty thousand dollars or there abouts the only problem with that
is the average house in Denver because I refuse to live anywhere other than in
Denver why wouldn’t you want to live in the city that you enjoy working at the
average house was like $400,000 what am I gonna do with a hundred and thirty
thousand dollars this is crazy so ideally I found the mayor I seen him
at one no community events and I was just like excuse me mr. mayor I can’t
get out of public housing he was like what hadn’t seen mean didn’t know me
from hill beans it’s sure enough we said what do I need to do you guys got to
come up with something and sure enough you said you know what we need to work
on that I said yep I got that one I have to see him every time now where is he
gonna be it next week cuz I need to put that bug back in his ear again and let
him know that I am NOT one of these people that most people think
homelessness means lazy trifling substance abuse I didn’t have domestic
violence but that’s that wasn’t my trigger it’s not about the trigger it’s
just simply about being homeless how you got there
it doesn’t matter it just simply doesn’t matter how did you become homeless
how about what can I do to help you now let your homeless and I suspect us where
a lot of you are here now because what can I do what can I learn that’s gonna
help my fellow human being so the mayor said next time I seen him he said
whatever community something Town Hall something something he gives fifteen
thousand million dollars to housing he’s building he’s doing on it and I ran
across Councilwoman at-large Robyn I said hey that’s when you’re persistent
you’re persistent right but my point was it’s not just me there’s other people
that’s not persistent that is still going to work everyday and do not have a
voice I say hey Robyn what are we doing about this whole affordable thing she
said I call my office here’s my number isn’t a personal number here’s
everything everything aside of her address and where she eats dinner I had
and I called her office and I worked with them and I explained to them how I
didn’t qualify Jay being WIDA from empower Jay from not officer its Dido worked with me and heard me cuz every
time they saw me that’s what I told him I’m not homeless homeless I’m living in
public housing and I know I could do better
sure enough they said it’s a grand you know you may qualify just go down there
where is it cuz I’m on my way I got my skates on
right I am there I get down to some location I’ve never been to and Wells
Fargo is all over the place I’m like oh here we go
I am not buying anything how do you go send me where the bank is that all I
want you to do is open the checking account and the savings account and I
don’t need no checking account I barely got five dollars and I met this guy I
called him the burster but his name was birdie and he said hey do you have a
lender I’m like yes I’m all set with that I don’t want to buy anything he’s
like well this is the neighborhood live I said yeah all I know is I’m on track
I’m trying to buy a house the people just told me I ain’t got about a hundred
and thirty thousand dollars and I could only get a garage with that the realtor
was pushing me into the linemen who wants to let the linemen I’m just
kidding but when you work downtown you probably
want to be a little closer to work sure enough I qualified you should have some
how many people I was calling that day I qualified for the neighborhood lift
grant I graduated from the FSS program with my with my money for downtown
downpayment assistance I got my match funding is it just me absolutely not
you heard Wells Fargo keep said that thousands of people I’d like to think
because I didn’t want to buy anything people didn’t want to sell me anything
that it was a perfect match so partnerships true partnerships from all
the nonprofit’s that helped me till I got to warm village from warm village to
empower where I met being WETA and Olga from there to public housing Denver
Housing Authority they they said hey you could be a commissioner I might put me
at the table I’ve got some things to help you guys fix had no idea what I was
getting into and they exposed me to so much including seeing other communities
in other states and thinking oh my god I’m so grateful that we have the housing
that we have because until you see different you don’t know as a
commissioner they sent me to all the little education classes you could go to
and I had participated in get certificates for all of them and I’m so
thankful because through that the support from the mayor’s office the help
from Robbins office the kind words of encouragement from all of the other
folks that I came in contact with people encouraged me along the way but more
than just words I got that hand up as Sharon so elegantly put inspirational
I’m only trying to be empowering I keep at it and now I have a platform to say
you’re not alone there’s lots of people that have been homeless that resided me reciting you that’s why we get up every
day we keep coming to work although sometimes the printer don’t work
sometime the copier is backed up and you got to start all over again you just
keep at it you keep coming back to be more innovative I’d like to think is to
resolve homelessness it’s to help build programs and work together and
partnerships for somebody like me for somebody like you guys because we’re all
in it together we stand together inside the City and County of Denver lies hope
encouragement where people can embrace people and I know somebody that leads that
vision I know the Mayor Michael Hancock from the first day I met him I said hey
what about me and he said I hear you the team said I hear you
we’re working on it the partnerships all the various nonprofits and partnerships
here they work together for us this guy said you know what he was at one village
I think a couple of weeks ago and I loved my meeting to here to just hear
the ladies speak what’s the concern after you leave warm village I cried
like a brand-new baby because the carpet was removed from under you
I mean really you have an advocate on the first floor you got child care and
in the lower level you have your programs across the street they partner
with Community College of Denver he said I need to hear the people over the last
four five six years I have come to truly respect admire and look at the growth of
the city we went from a little tinsel town you can walk through downtown on a
Sunday and not have any traffic now you got to figure out what public
transportation to take but I’m just grateful that I have my Eco pass and I’m
able to ride whatever I want to but I want to really really just let you guys
know I’m so thankful honored to be here and if nothing else this this platform
what you just heard I hope that it inspires you that empowers you to do
more than you did yesterday and now I want to introduce Mayor Michael Hancock good morning good morning
let’s celebrate Marshall Brown one more time y’all come on she is such an inspiration to me and so
many people I’ve shared a stage with her I’ve she just talked about warm village
where we set around the table I have shared her story so many times and just
to hear people sit watch them kind of imagine the challenges the triumphs that
she’s had to come through to go through to get where she is today you know I
just think sometimes people come in your life to remind you why you’re here and
what your why is your purpose is of everything that we do and Marsha Brown I
believe as my why thank you Marsha again for your story she talked about the
adversity that she triumphs over so many it’s a adversity that many of our
families in Denver have faced an adversity my own family has faced when I
was growing up in Northeast Denver when she and I sit around the table
recently at warm village she talked about the alumni one person all of them
told me stories that really truly moved me but there was one story in particular
that made me almost jump out of my skin and say yeah that’s the story right
there and Marsha you might remember Jesse who said that she came here
fleeing a domestic violence situation and just follow the chain of her story
she said I went to Rose Anthem and those of you don’t know Rose Anam is a
one-stop Center for those who are suffering or are being abused involved
in a domestic violence situation and she said Rose Anthem center so served saved
my life and she said and then I of course ended up at war village and then
the first affordable housing facility that I ended up in was one Boulevard and
while I was at one Boulevard something happened that interrupted my
to make rent for him up and so I called the city and I was taken care of through
the trua program and just listening to Jessie who didn’t know my role our
efforts around every one of those programs I was ready to just jump for
joy because it was Jessie who put in context everything we worked on for the
last eight years as a safety net for our neighbors
I said Jessie you don’t know it or not you don’t know this but for 13 years I
worked to help establish the Rose & M Center one Boulevard was well in the
very first affordable housing projects that the city’s housing funds invested
in and the trua program just two years old it’s one of our very first
initiatives to help make sure that those who are in housing stay in housing you
just demonstrated to me you are a walking example that indeed what we’re
doing our safety net is working Thank You Jessie you know I want to thank all of you for
being here I see members of our City Council here thank you very much as well
see members of the administration all of our partners who are here in this room
thank you all for being here today we started the reason why we started this
important gathering five years ago the reason we are committed to keeping it an
annual event is to maintain a focus on helping other Denver residents triumph
over adversity as we have learned from Marcia we learn from the story of Jesse
it takes a focus on a concerted effort including government nonprofits and many
other stakeholders it means dwelling into the housing
issues and examining approaches to help house our community today and into the
future it takes collaboration and a willingness
to take risk measure success and identify obstacles creating more
affordable housing preserving affordability and housing quality
promoting equitable and accessible housing options and stabilizing
residents at risk of involuntary displacement and it takes a community
response it was a commune response that helped us create the city’s first-ever
dedicated affordable housing fund and then double it last year it’s been a
community spots that helped us expand our approach to not just building units
but also moving on 80 use emergency rental utility and mortgage assistance
locking an affordability for 60 years and hide incentives at places like 38th
and Blake and River mile and I’m especially proud or the community spawns
to serving our residents who have no home at all because it has helped us
move more than 7500 individuals and families out of homelessness improve our
outreaching connections to critical services create a nationally recognized
work program and so much more this is on top of more than 6,000 affordable homes
that have been are preserved over the last eight years
and we’ve got 1273 more City supported units under construction right now and
another 843 ready to break ground in neighborhoods across the city numbers
and programs are great but as the stories of the people like Marsha brown
and like Jessie we serve and how those numbers translate into changing lives
that really matters like Araceli gr o ramos she has lived in Alerus Swansea a
with her husband and three kids for the past 11 years and I just met her she’s
going to be a homeowner soon thanks to 32 Habitat for Humanity homes being
built right now at 44th and Columbine we’re proud to be a partner with habitat
humanity at that site and stories like that of Monica Gallegos in Westwood who
had emergency surgery and missed two months of work last year our emergency
rental assistance helped stabilize her situation until she could get back to
work as a dental assistant it’s taken a community response it’s taken some of
the best minds in the metro area coming together in one room like this today too
for solutions that transform lives these are the fundamental building blocks for
a more equitable city a city that’s welcoming and pushes forward on bold and
progressive ideas and we remain open to those ideas that’s why you’re here today
we are driven by the simple conviction that anyone who chooses to call Denver
home should be able to access safe affordable and decent housing today
after year of intense analysis identifying stable funding sources and
internal effort we’re ready to take another step in addressing the need for
more affordable housing and better services for those experiencing
homelessness in our city this administration was the first to
begin with allocating funds from the city’s budget to support affordable
housing now our funding outpaces even that of the state of Colorado in 2017 we
announced the creation of a coordinating entity we call the Office of Hope this
was an important experiment that helped identify the elements of what we should
think of as a pipeline of housing need and affordability in our city Lincoln
everything from homelessness transitional housing affordable housing
and workforce development we’ve worked to fortify our housing divisions
resources finances and personnel and new leadership structure under the chief
housing officer under Denver’s Road home were better connected and elevated
coordination of a multitude of programs deployed by various city agencies to
support those experiencing homelessness and for the past 18 months we have taken
a deep dive into the structure of our housing and homelessness programs to
better align them with needs of the people we serve the challenges we face
in these areas are not unique to our city and they are not unique to the
times of economic hardship or historic prosperity just like zoning planning
street paving police and fire protection what we do around housing and
homelessness should be must be a core city service it needs yes it needs the structure within city
government to bring all the necessary resources to bear to tackle the
challenges our residents in need are facing and so today I’m proud to
announce that we are proposing to combine its housing and homelessness
services into a new department the Department of Housing and homelessness
by bringing these two agencies together under one roof we will connect our full
spectrum of services from housing for those experiencing homelessness to
affordable homeownership and everything in between while aligning and leveraging
our resources we want a lot of community engagement as we have as we set this up
and we’re going to start with everyone here today
because I know you want to see a successful transition of these critical
services into our own Department we have designed a quick three question survey
seeking input of our future housing and homelessness department we’re going to
me email it to everyone after the forum and I by each of you to share your
thoughts and ideas this is the first of many opportunities to share input over
the next several months as we shape the implementation plan and take steps to
launch the department in 2020 now I look forward to working with you as we
journey toward a structure that supports improved outcomes in our city now we’re
not done I have one other announcement I want to share with you my administration
is committed to creating a strategic plan across housing and homelessness
which will help ensure that our housing plan is shelter plans which are already
underway are fully able to maximize resources and services to support those
who are at risk of or have experienced homelessness so while this new structure
is being set up we’re going to take art we’re not going to take our foot off the
gas on either these issues especially for our residents experiencing
homelessness today we’re kicking off of fifteen point seven million dollar
initiative that will be leverage by the city in partnership with
our business nonprofit and philanthropic communities over the next three years to
bolster to critical homelessness services five million dollars will go to
support four hundred bridge housing vouchers over the next two years to help
our hardest to shelter residents exit the streets and ten point seven million
dollars will be focused on expanding options for day shelter in partnership
with our large and small providers to bring people indoors during the daytime
and help them exit the streets through a key increased management and supportive
services we’ve got some more good news this morning we received word that our
first partner has made a commitment the Anschutz foundation has agreed to join
us in this effort and has committed 1 million dollars
thank you and chutes and while I I can park for just a moment
a great city cares for her people and while we may not always agree on how we
arrive at that destination to support our most vulnerable the one thing I can
tell you that I’m very proud of is that this city has never stopped trying to
reach our most vulnerable whether they are on the sidewalk in ball park or in
their car in five points or in open space along Pena Boulevard every
resident in this city matters our goal is not to sweep people
our goal has always to connect people directly with services to try to
stabilize their situation and the team at City Hall while constantly having
criticism lodged at them has never left the laboratory and trying to find and
seek ways and how we can help our most vulnerable in our city those who are
housed and at risk of homelessness and those who are on our streets without a
roof over their heads in this effort today
I just announced as an opportunity has been driven also by the opportunity of
the philanthropic community and the private sector to say while we may not
agree on initiative 300 well we can’t agree on is that we need to do more and
we can do more and so I’m honored that the Anschutz foundation has stepped
forward many others have reached out and said how can we do more and we’re going
to cultivate those relationships but I want everyone to know that this city is
prepared and ready to continue to stand up and stand in the gap for those who
are most vulnerable and do everything we can to house those were on house and to
make sure those who are housed remain housed in its great city
before I leave I want to acknowledge our sponsors we have many sponsors who
helped make today possible they’re listed in the event program they have
helped to make today possible I want to thank our very special sponsor for
hosting this event Wells Fargo Wells Fargo thank you very
much would you join me also thinking the planning committee volunteers and
exhibitors the Denver office of economic development and opportunity under the
leadership of Erica Raja our chief housing director Britta Fisher and the
team give them a round of applause I want to thank Denver’s wrote home on her
leadership of Chris Connor his team and each of you again for committing your
time and your efforts and for being our partner this is an opportunity for us to
go to work we’re ready to go thank you all for being here let’s get
to work god bless you

Danny Hutson

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