Welcome to New MHC Team Member Deyanira Zavala, Program Coordinator
Deyanira Zavala oversees the implementation and execution of MHC’s workplan by creating and managing partnership opportunities and tracking workplan deliverables. She focuses on MHC’s Business, Local Workforce, and Middle Skilled Jobs and MHC’s Affordable Fares priority areas, as well as MHC’s gentrification/anti-displacement efforts. Prior to joining Mile High Connects, Deyanira served as Program Coordinator at Rocky Mountain MicroFinance Institute, a Community creating mobility in people’s lives through entrepreneurs. In this role, Deyanira implemented the organization’s Post Boot Camp program, dedicated to support entrepreneurs with continued mentorship and one-on-one coaching. Deyanira has also served as the Business Assistance Center Manager with Business and Community Lenders of Texas and Program Coordinator with NALCAB- National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders, where she facilitated a variety of projects in support of NALCAB member organizations, including resource development and capacity building activities. Deyanira holds a Master of Public Administration from the University of North Texas and a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology from the University of Texas at Arlington. Deyanira is trained Technology of Participation (ToP) facilitator and alumni of the Young Nonprofits Professional Network Elevate Denver fellowship program.
In addition to many of its Steering Committee members being active participants in the formal stakeholder process, MHC submitted a formal letter to the City of Denver regarding the sources and proposed uses of its proposed dedicated fund for affordable housing. Specifically, we made strong recommendations that the city not use the Mayor’s minimum goal of $150M over 10 years as a ceiling/goal and instead maximize both the mill levy and impact fee components individually. With regard to the impact fee, we specifically recommended that there should be no minimum threshold in terms of size/square footage, and no exemptions for government, non-profits, etc. except for deed restricted affordable housing. Importantly, we also argued that renovation of multifamily properties should not be exempt, as we hear from our community organizing partners that is one of the primary causes of displacement pressures. Finally, we offered to be a thought partners on defining the range of affordability under the proposed ordinances but in all cases will push for longer required affordability periods, either through ground leases or deed restrictions. We are grateful to the City and its leadership for including Mile High Connects in the process and for taking our recommendations seriously.
On June 29, the MHC Advisory Council invited Tony Romano from Right to the City, to share the story of his organization/coalition and its core principles that housing is a fundamental right for all people and that the community should have the ability to own and control not just land/property but the process by which its created. He challenged the group to think beyond the confines of the programs in which we work (LIHTC, Section 8, CDBG, etc.) because those programs have deep roots in racism and segregation. After being inspired or challenged (or both) by Tony, the group worked in small groups to identify and physically map which organizations were working to overcome gentrification and displacement and where and thought about whether there might be natural allies for the work among powerful/grass-tops organizations and agencies. It was a powerful discussion that was sure to lead to a lot of future ideas and debate among MHC and its many partners.
Coming Home: Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow
Westminster residents, artists, city councilors, and community based organizations came together on Friday June 24th for a closing reception of the Coming Home Art Exhibit. This reception took place at the local artists hub called the Rodeo Market, which marked the end of a month long art exhibit where local artists submitted beautiful, tactful, and abstract art pieces that captured the essence of home and the stark reality that too many living in Westminster are seeing their housing stability and human right to housing disappear. This event titled Coming Home: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, was organized by the “We Organize Westminster” Campaign of FRESC and the South Westminster Arts Group to create awareness around the issues of displacement, homelessness, and the need for more affordable housing. Through a lively panel discussion made up of housing experts, community organizations, and community members, we ignited a dialogue around the impacts of displacement, and the need for better affordable housing policies and better renter’s protections. In attendance were Mayor Pro-Tem Alberto Garcia, and Councilor Emma Pinter. Along with their partners on council, both of them were instrumental in creating the first ever city council proclamation in Spanish to raise awareness for affordable housing, which marked the day of this reception, Coming Home Day.
“Like most of Colorado, we know we have a housing crisis in Westminster. What makes Westminster special when it comes to addressing this crisis is the remarkable citizen leaders who have stepped up with WOW to share their stories and help push for better solutions. We have our first train station opening in Westminster on July 25th. Our council has made it important that we have economic vitality and affordable housing throughout our city. The people who work in our city need to be able to afford to live in our city.” – Quote from Councilor Emma Pinter regarding the event.
First and Last Mile Connections
MHC is part of a coalition of community leaders that recently received a $60,000 national grant to help improve the health of low-income residents in Westminster and adjacent areas of Adams County. The goal of the Invest Health initiative, a project of Reinvestment Fund and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is to transform how leaders from mid-size American cities work together to help improve health outcomes for low-income communities. The project focuses on community features that improve health outcomes such as access to safe and affordable housing, transit, places for recreation and exercise, and quality jobs.
Other members of the Westminster Invest Health Coalition team include representatives from the City of Westminster (the official grant recipient), Adams County, Tri-County Health Department, and Regis University. The group was selected from more than 180 teams from 170 communities that applied to the initiative. Cities with populations between 50,000 and 400,000 were asked to form five-member teams including representatives from the public sector, community development, and an anchor institution, preferably academic or health-related, working together to address health outcome disparities.
Over the next 18 months, Invest Health teams will take part in a vibrant learning community through which they will have access to highly skilled faculty advisors and coaches who will support their efforts toward improved health. MHC staff and representatives of the other partners participated in an Invest Health convening in Philadelphia with 50 other grantee communities June 7 through 10. The discussions focused on creating effective programs that ultimately produce a pipeline of projects that advance community health. Equity was a core aspect of the convening program. Invest Health will hold a second nation convening this September in Denver.
The Westminster Invest Health Coalition also will engage a broad group of local stakeholders to encourage local knowledge sharing and community participation. The Westminster Invest Health Coalition’s projects will explore a range of ideas from improvements to the built environment to programs that promote healthy, active living.