The Acute Meets The Chronic: The Work of Our Collaborative in 2020

Our Program Update, July 2020:

COVID-19 has acutely demonstrated that everyone needs to live in safe and healthy communities – communities that advance economic opportunity, prevent residential, commercial and cultural displacement, build on local assets, promote mobility and connectivity, and enable equitable access to planning, development, and decision-making. Our work now is to collaboratively navigate escalating risks while continuing to lay the foundation for a new system paradigm – one that we have been working for all along. 

Mile High Connects is taking a stand for an equitable, resilient Metro Denver where community-driven solutions are at the center of transformative change. In order to increase equitable investment into community-centered solutions, we are committing to:

  1. strengthen community leadership and development with financial resources and technical assistance,
  2. institutionalize equitable development through advocacy and practice, and
  3. activate and deploy equitable capital for catalytic projects that will influence and leverage public investments while preserving place

Based on years of deep engagement in community, and the continued generous support of The Denver Foundation, the Piton Foundation, the Colorado Health Foundation, Gates Family Foundation, Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, Wells Fargo and US Bank, we have recommitted our program work to three local geographies that experience persistent trauma, inequitable allocation of resources, and are most at risk of displacement pressures – Southwest Adams County, West Denver, and East Denver. Leveraging continued support from the Strong, Prosperous, and Resilient Communities Challenge (SPARCC), a multi-city national cohort of regional collaboratives, our goal is to increase equitable investment into community-driven solutions by 2023.  

Community ownership is a critical opportunity in this moment and its success will rely upon connected, informed and organized communities with strong leadership. Work across our target geographies will focus on building community development infrastructure and leadership development. In West Denver, for example, we will support the growth of their Community Connector program established to get folks connected to resources in response to the health and financial crises. In Southwest Adams County, we will support the design and development of a community organizing institute. We will also explore Community Investment Trust (CIT) models and identify local opportunities to implement a pilot.

Critically, in our effort to institutionalize equitable development, we will identify policy gaps and opportunities brought to light by COVID-19 and recent social unrest, and advocate for local, state and national policies that reduce displacement of residents and businesses. We plan to influence local and regional planning efforts to support the application of an equity lens in every decision made. We will also sponsor and promote existing Community Benefits Agreement (CBAs) efforts across our region.

Capital is a crucial piece of the community ownership puzzle, and we are committed to the equitable deployment of it. Mile High Connects will continue to support pre-development efforts in West Denver along Morrison Road to support BuCu West in creating a business corridor that preserves culture and place. We will also support the development of Montbello’s grocery-store-anchored cultural hub that includes affordable rental housing. Over in East Denver, with compounded displacement pressures at play, we will align resources and partners to create and preserve affordable housing units.

As our community partners focus both on recovery efforts and the long-term root cause remedies to systemic oppression, we stand where the acute meets the chronic. We have an opportunity to reimagine the way forward, one that unlocks community power, promotes racial equity, rebalances our economic structures, and ensures housing for all.

Responding to COVID-19’s Stressors: Our low-income workers and entrepreneurs need us – now more than ever

By Deyanira Zavala, Executive Director

This week has been a whirlwind of activity as Coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) continues to dominate headlines and our meeting agendas.

Community organizers, nonprofits, and others in our network are responding with tremendous heart and courage. They are issuing calls to action in support of protecting our front line workers – those living paycheck to paycheck – from the ripple effects of this public health crisis. Folks who were are already feeling the anxiety of a paycheck stretched beyond the numbers on it due to rising rents, higher monthly transit costs, and stagnant wages. Mom and pop entrepreneurs who turned side hustles into full-fledged, full-time businesses when they couldn’t secure a job and are now worried that the next client that walks through the door for a pick up order may be their last.

Mile High Connects will be compiling resources and updates on our website, so please visit www.milehighconnects.org/covidresources for the latest news. We will also update our Facebook and Twitter regularly to share what we’re hearing and seeing in the communities we are a part of, and the opportunities we have in front of us.

We’re calling on you, our Community, to stick with us as we reflect on the inequities that this crisis has highlighted for us as a region – inequities that we have long known and felt, but are now facing the bright light of day.

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