MHC Partner Highlight – The Colorado Health Foundation

The Colorado Health Foundation’s vision is that Colorado will be the healthiest state in the nation. We work to improve the health and health care of Coloradoans by increasing access to quality health care and encouraging healthy lifestyle choices. To be successful in this, we know that we must engage those beyond the usual partners in health care and public health; in fact, we believe that health is everybody’s business. Health doesn’t just happen in the doctor’s office; it happens in schools and early childhood settings, in our workplaces, at the local park, in our homes and even in our transit system. That’s why we are proud to be a member of Mile High Connects. Our engagement began in 2011 and Foundation staff currently participate on the Steering Committee, Grant Fund Committee, Internal Equity and Inclusiveness Committee and the Advisory Council. When the Foundation first joined Mile High Connects, we were in the early stages of shaping a Healthy Communities approach within our Healthy Living outcome area. Over time, we have expanded our Healthy Communities work, including launching a Healthy Places initiative, seeding the Colorado Fresh Food Financing Fund, making program-related investments in supportive housing and community facilities and using our grantmaking to support a variety of nonprofit and public sector organizations working to increase opportunities for healthy eating and active living in communities across the state. Mile High Connects has provided the Foundation a unique opportunity to offer our perspective and expertise while learning from and collaborating with a diverse set of partners, all working toward making the Metro Denver region a place of opportunity for all residents.

Healthy Places: Making Connections that Matter

Healthy Places: Designing an Active Colorado, an initiative of the Colorado Health Foundation, was engineered to increase physical activity in three communities including the southeast portion of Arvada, the city of Lamar and the Westwood neighborhood in southwest Denver. Characterized as low-income and experiencing greater than average health disparities, these three communities face significant barriers to physical activity due to the built environment. It is important to note that the average low-income household spends 25.3 percent of their monthly income on transportation costs, compared to 17.1 percent for the entire population. Healthy Places seeks to improve the built environment in these communities through improving safety and infrastructure.

Community engagement is and will continue to be a key element of Healthy Places. It has helped inform tailored recommendations from an expert panel of Urban Land Institute (ULI) members and played a crucial role in the prioritization and selection process. Community members will continue their involvement as the work moves into the implementation phase. In developing recommendations, ULI was given the guidelines to prioritize walking and biking as safe, viable, and enjoyable modes of transportation and recreation through the community. Additionally, ULI was tasked with developing solutions to fill the gaps in pedestrian and bicycle networks needed to create a continuous interconnected system.

All three communities are hard at work to create healthy places including the creation of new parks or renovation of old ones. Some projects include building the 7-mile Lamar loop, designing a Skateboard and BMX Park and many others. Here’s a few examples of transit-related efforts currently underway:

Healthy Places: Designing an Active Arvada

• Sidewalks are being installed on W. 60th Ave. (at Sheridan and 60th Ave.) between Lamar and Sheridan as a key pedestrian connection to the Gold Strike Station.
• Pedestrian level wayfinding signage is being installed throughout southeast Arvada to connect residents from the neighborhoods, to parks, community gardens, transit centers and grocery stores.
Weekly bike rides take place every weekend from April through October and include tours of the three transit stations in Arvada to help residents navigate to them safely.
• A bike corral and on-street parking facility, that can accommodate many more bikes than a typical sidewalk rack, is being piloted in Olde Town Arvada during the summer of 2015. It will be installed permanently in 2016 prior to the opening of the Olde Town transit hub.

Healthy Places: Designing an Active Westwood

• Westwood residents, 9to5 Colorado and Westwood Unidos, rallied together to petition the Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD) to reinstate Route 4 public bus service on Morrison Rd. Westwood residents and community organizations turned out in mass at RTD route service change meetings. Residents shared their personal stories about relying on public transportation for various needs such as commuting to work, sending children to school and visiting the doctor. In February 2015 the RTD board voted ‘Yes’ to Route 4 on Morrison Rd.
• Community members and organizations participated in the Callejón de la Amistad, or Friendship Alleyway, to transform what was once a dumping ground and graffiti-ridden alleyway into a safe and colorful place to play and walk to school. The design is based on the ideas and creativity of Westwood residents. On Aug. 24, the Westwood neighborhood celebrated the Friendship Alleyway Inauguration, which is located on S. Lowell St. between W. Virginia Ave. and W. Custer Pl.

Research shows that transit-dependent riders struggle to find an option for safe, affordable and reliable travel between their homes, transit stations, work and other destinations. The Foundation, a proud partner of Mile High Connects, is working through initiatives like Healthy Places to create more active communities near transit stops with the goal of increasing access to places where Coloradans live, work and play.

Report: First & Last Mile – Funding Needs And Priorities For Connecting People to Transit

The buildout of FasTracks, a multi-billion dollar expansion of public transit throughout metro Denver, has highlighted major challenges that low-income riders face when attempting to access the transit system. Many transit station areas have missing or inadequate sidewalks, dangerous crossings, and poor lighting. First and last mile connections (FLMC) refers to the built environment elements that help people get from their home to a transit stop, or from a transit stop to their final destination. Mile High Connects did a deeper dive into these important issues and this research is the culmination of 48 survey responses, 3 best practice case studies and 7 focus groups with participants representing city staff and agencies, non and for-profit developers, community organizations, and transportation management agencies all of whom provided stakeholder insight into barriers and solutions to financing these crucial connective elements.

The report provides a baseline understanding of how FLMC are currently funded in the Denver region, identifies best practices both locally and nationally, and makes recommendations on policies, practices, and funding mechanisms to address FLMC challenges. MHC hosted a report release event on September 3rd and over 100 people attended from jurisdictions around the Denver Region, the nonprofit sector, planning departments, RTD, the Denver Regional Council of Governments, and other community organizations. Resident leaders from Globeville Elyria-Swansea LiveWell also shared their important advocacy work on FLMC and highlighted these issues in real time. Recommendations from the report were shared as well as case studies on FLMC from other cities. The links below include the report, presentations from the release event, and the media pieces on Colorado Public Radio and Denver Streetsblog.

* Report
* WalkDenver Presentation
* NRDC Presentation
* Colorado Public Radio Piece
* Denver Streetsblog Piece

WalkDenver and BBC Research developed this report on behalf of Mile High Connects (MHC), with support from MHC members FRESC: Good Jobs, Strong Communities and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Internal Equity & Inclusiveness: Taking on Issues of Race & Class

In June of 2015 the Convergence Innovation Fund, the national funder that seeded our grant fund, invited MHC to join a webinar hosted by PolicyLink to share our internal equity and inclusiveness capacity building that we are undertaking as an organization and collaborative. The panel featured different dimensions of sustainability around community equity-focused initiatives and leaders from different foundations shared examples of their work on these topics. Davian Gagne, Grants & Operations Manager for MHC, participated on the panel and offered an overview of MHC and explained why equity and inclusiveness are central values for the collaborative. Click here for the webinar.

July 2015 Advisory Council – First/Last Mile Connections

“Look out for that car!”

“Bus stop closed.”

“There isn’t a sidewalk here.”

“Just how am I going to get my stroller over that median?”

During the July 15th Advisory Council meeting members jumped over a busy street with match box cars flying back and forth, awkwardly climbed over a cardboard box median, balanced on a curb without a sidewalk, crawled under a pretend bridge with a train set, and endured artificial weather conditions to access the sign-in table. Even though it was a fun simulation of the barriers to accessing transit, they illuminated the very real obstacles that many low-income communities face when getting to the bus or rail.

The meeting featured energetic discussions about the first/last mile report (look for the full report in September 2015!) and groups grappled with a variety of questions about FLMC ranging from funding/sustaining infrastructure, to funding for FLMC and figuring out how municipalities define these important issues. Seleta Reynolds, General Manager of the LA Department of Transportation, rounded out the meeting with an inspiring presentation about the amazing work and projects she has accomplished. Click here for her presentation.

Thanks to all that came! See you at our next meeting on November 12th, 9-12:00 pm at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

The Buck Foundation

In Denver, it is illegal for homeless residents to sleep or sit on downtown sidewalks, or to use any form of shelter from the cold or sun other than their clothing. In Denver, because of new laws like the Urban Camping Ban, city officials are treating homelessness as a criminal condition and are illegalizing the activities of homeless people in public spaces.

In response to this crisis a consortium of partners including the Buck Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union, Bayaud Industries and local service providers have joined forces to move people to take actions that change social norms and policy. The Buck Foundation is specifically focused on organizing homeless residents themselves to mobilize around key initiatives to protect their rights and access to services.Among these are 1) access to public toilets 2) state and city laws to protect basic human rights, 3) establishment of an affordable housing fund and 4) maintaining affordable public transit fares.

In April we convened 300 homeless residents and providers to address each of these key areas and to develop solutions. Because our nonprofit partners and most foundations are slow to exert pressure and influence on the philanthropic, private and public sectors, the Buck Foundation has been working to build a coalition of the willing into key working groups to address each of these issue areas. In this formative year, we have developed a culture of shared leadership, strategy and training in community organizing. Given the vulnerability of the homeless community, this initiative is going to take time and patience with a series of small victories to grow momentum.

In addition, the Buck Foundation sponsored the first national convening of the National Coalition for the Homeless in concert with a nationwide campaign to introduce an inaugural Right To Rest Act, piloted this spring in the Colorado State Legislature.

Kaiser Permanente – Supporting Mobility and Active Transportation

Our support and participation in Mile High Connects and initiatives to make transit more affordable and strategically planned align closely with our community benefit mission. In addition to supporting Mile High Connects, we funded county-level efforts to develop Bike to Work events; the development, implementation, and evaluation of bike share programs; organizations working to advocate for local and state government priorities that support active transportation; a Metro Denver health impact assessment; and organizations working to increase active transportation through the built environment.

Kaiser Permanente Colorado is the state’s largest nonprofit health plan, proudly working to improve the lives and health of Colorado residents for 45 years. In 2014 we directed more than $109 million to community benefit programs that improve the health of all Coloradans. We support active people through programs, education, and infrastructure development. We help to make walking, biking, and public transit the preferred choice of transportation. Partnerships with state and local governments lead to common solutions to promote active transportation and healthy environments and economy.

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