DENVER, Colo. – A former historic church in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood has been repurposed to provide a path to independence for area residents transitioning out of homelessness.
The Saint Francis Warren Residences may still look like a house of worship, but the one-time sanctuary now houses a community kitchen and 48 dorm-style transitional housing units, KCNC-TV reported.
“What we’re really trying to do is bring a safe space to people. A church in and of itself can be a sacred space,” Katie Symons, a supportive housing consultant who has worked on the Warren Residences project for four years, told the TV station when the facility made its official debut on Friday.
“Forty-eight units are not going to solve the entire problem, but Denver and the surrounding communities are doing whatever they can to solve the issue,” Symons added.
According to The Denver Gazette, the units are reserved for homeless residents who make 30% or less of the area median income, which city data indicated is up to $22,050 for a single-person household.
Britta Fisher, executive director of the city’s department of housing stability, characterized the Warren Residences project as a “beacon of hope and stability for many in our community for decades to come.”
One person per each 150-square-foot unit will be allowed, and shared spaces will include bathrooms, laundry facilities, living and kitchen areas, the Gazette reported.
In addition to housing, the Warren Residences will provide tenants with voluntary employment services and case management to help prevent them from falling back into homelessness, the newspaper reported.
By Saturday, 30 people had already moved into the Warren Residences, and each will be expected to pay 30% of their income in rent, with no time limit on how long they are allowed to stay, KCNC-TV reported.
Fisher told the TV station that the Warren Residences is only one facility in a five-project pipeline, partially funded by the city, that provides nearly 300 units of “supportive housing” for people experiencing homelessness in the Denver area.
“When you look at a place like this, it’s really focused on that communal and privacy aspect. We have another project that recently broke ground called Valor on the Fax, and it has traumatic brain injury households being served,” Fisher told KCNC-TV.
According to city officials, another 1,353 city-funded affordable units are under construction at 26 sites, and 1,175 income-restricted units are being planned, the Gazette reported.
“The Warren Residences model is so important because it shows the greater community what can be accomplished in support of affordable housing by adapting and reusing available community spaces,” Tom Luehrs with the Saint Francis Center told the newspaper.
“We can convert unused sacred spaces into active sacred spaces and transform people’s lives,” he added.