Many people think of mountains and pristine ski slopes when they think of Colorado. But behind the tourist attractions, as in most places across the United States, homelessness and affordable housing are tandem crises. In the metro Denver area, two United Church of Christ entities have teamed up to address the issues: Archway Housing & Services, Inc., and the Rocky Mountain Conference.
Archway’s predecessor agency was started by the conference some 20 years ago, and that relationship continues to be strong today. In fact, the conference shepherded Archway into the UCC’s Council for Health and Human Service Ministries.
“Connections to the Rocky Mountain Conference, and now CHHSM, have been growing since the Rev. Sue Artt became conference minister,” says the Rev. Robb Lapp, co-founder and former board chair of Archway. “Members of conference churches are expanding their support of the work of Archway through volunteering and donations to our unique, vibrant family social services program.”
Thanks to that support, Archway is finding meaningful ways to address the affordable housing crisis in metro Denver. Its seven communities provide families and older adults with housing and related services that create a safe environment and teach community skills to people with very low to moderate incomes. Half of its Cornerstone community in downtown Denver serves people who are “chronically homeless,” says Lapp.
“What sets the Rocky Mountain Conference’s Archway Housing apart from other low-income housing is that Archway offers ongoing on-site services to its resident clientele,” says Conference Minister Artt, “including after-school and summer programming for all children aged 6-18 that focuses on educational, healthy living, recreational, and cultural activities; and adult services such as resume writing assistance, computer literacy, ESL, exercise and gardening, and an on-site food bank.”
Archway’s Family Services staff provides the on-site activities, “as well as outings to enrich the students’ lives and learning opportunities,” says Joyce Alms-Ransford, executive director of Archway, who adds that Archway often is able to expand the range of services by partnering with other service providers, from the Boy Scouts to local churches, agencies, and businesses.
In addition to the traditional adult services, Archway “supports families during the holiday season with culturally-sensitive activities, which include celebrations of food offered by the families to share,” Alms-Ransford says. “Archway also blends opportunities for families to receive gifts for their children, garnered from the local Toys for Tots program, as well as holiday food baskets for those families most in need, provided by a local non-denominational church.”
“No other local housing provider goes to this depth of service to provide on-site staff and activities on behalf of their resident population,” she adds.
On the horizon
Currently, Archway is working on purchasing and rehabilitating a community in Colorado Springs that will serve military families left behind while a service member is deployed overseas. And a significant portion of one of its newest Denver communities, 40 West Residences, will house 25 formerly homeless and disabled veterans. 40 West Residences is slated to open in early October.
As with all CHHSM-member ministries, Archway operates under the premise that housing is a justice issue. “‘As the rich get richer …’ is a manifestation of human greed, a powerful form of evil,” says Lapp. “A safe place to sleep is a fundamental human right. But it’s not just a question of warehousing the poor. Any church housing mission project should also include social services that help people take control of their lives, and that provide programs for children and youth while their often-single parents are trying to earn a living.”
The goal can seem daunting. “In spite of the work we and others do, the number of people in America who live in substandard housing or on the street is staggering,” Alms-Ransford adds. “A typical number of homeless persons in Colorado every night is around 10,000. It is a growing, fundamental cultural issue. This is why Archway makes the commitment to provide services to retain people in our housing.”
Lapp says he finds hope in the trend toward rediscovering the meaning of servant leadership. “The United Church of Christ at large is now discovering that Christianity is much more about ‘doing’ outside its doors than it is about the ‘comforts of believing’ inside its doors,” he says. “Affordable Housing is but one of the human needs being addressed ‘on the streets’ by CHHSM-affiliated organizations.”
“From it’s very inception, Archway was intended to care for its resident clientele not just as renters, but as persons of dignity with needs beyond basic shelter,” Artt says. “This is ministry, and Archway is making a difference for our neighbors every single day.”
Archway searches for volunteers and donations on an ongoing basis to spread or expand this ministry. For more information, call (303-561-0226) or email Archway.