Boulder Daily Camera by Alex Burness
The local nonprofit Bridge House is hoping to replicate its Ready to Work program,which helps Boulder homeless people transition back into housing and job security, somewhere in Aurora.
After facing fierce initial resistance from neighbors and city leaders there, the vision may finally be close to execution.
As was written in the Aurora Sentinel, which first reported the story, Bridge House’s primary struggle in this effort has been finding a workable space before launching the program in another city.
More than 1,100 people reportedly petitioned to keep Bridge House from moving into a former Bingo Hall on East Colfax Avenue.
The City Council in Aurora also took steps to thwart Bridge House, voting this summer to ban congregate living facilities within 300 feet of schools, which effectively nixed the Bingo Hall plan.
“It’s harming my residents,” Aurora Councilwoman Renie Peterson, who represents the part of the city where the Bingo Hall sits, said earlier this year when the ban was being considered, according to the Sentinel. “I’m not backing down now.”
Isabel McDevitt, the executive director of Bridge House, detailed her organization’s struggle to find a foothold in Aurora.
“I was looking around, and the (Bingo Hall) location in Aurora was a lot of vacant lots on Colfax, some run-down apartments. I was thinking, ‘OK, well, this is a good spot, but it’s not great that it’s across from a school.’
“And basically we got completely shut down by the neighborhood, and City Council passed the ordinance.”
But McDevitt found a new location in southwest Aurora, off of Parker Road, and Bridge House is now under contract on a former office building where 50 people could live and participate in Ready to Work.
The majority of the funding needed for the roughly $3.5 million project is already accounted for, McDevitt said. It’s possible the Aurora program could be up and running by fall 2018.
That these Aurora conversations are happening at all is a reflection of the fact that nonprofit leaders in the state are supportive of Ready to Work, which has drawn high marks from homeless advocacy circles since it opened on Table Mesa Drive in 2015.
Many want to see it replicated elsewhere in the Denver metro area. McDevitt was approached about this a year and a half ago.
It remains to be seen whether the program can thrive in Aurora, much less anywhere else beyond Boulder, but the ambition is there, at least.
“We’re being mindful that we are a relatively small nonprofit and we need to build some capacity to pursue replications,” McDevitt said.
“But we also know that the Ready to Work model is the only work-first solution to homelessness in Colorado, and our expertise with social enterprise and putting people back to work, as well as providing housing for a year, is unique. We want to export that and bring that to other communities as much as we can.”