In the months since the COVID vaccination efforts kicked off in the state, we’ve made enormous strides – over half of Colorado’s state population has been at least partially vaccinated to date, and community vaccine sites are emerging thanks in large part to organizations and leaders championing the cause. While there may no longer be eligibility and appointment restrictions, other barriers keep our metro Denver residents from getting vaccines. More recently as more people have gotten vaccinated, demand has declined, and dose availability has increased, a default narrative is taking center stage: that those who remain unvaccinated are choosing not to be so. However, the reality is that many of our Black, Brown, Indigenous and other People of Color (BBIPOC) and low-income community residents do not have transport options that are affordable, accessible, or reliable to get to and from vaccine sites. In fact, many residents that are looking for a vaccine are also looking for a ride.
As we reimagine recovery and revolutionize how we use the built environment to support public health and community well-being, we encourage going further in leveraging existing infrastructure to better connect services to the people.
Thanks to an analysis (see below for link) of RTD’s Park-n-Ride (PNR)s, we have a better understanding where the need is and what locations would best serve those who are hardest to reach. PNR locations are suitable for semi-permanent vaccine sites because they are accessible by public transit, car, and other micro-mobility options, they have established infrastructure such as protected areas, utility connections and waste management services, and they tap into and enhance existing infrastructure to meet the moment and ensure access to services as a public health necessity. The report’s author, Luna Hoopes, identified 36 PNR sites as eligible for semi-permanent vaccine operations to serve our low-income and BBIPOC communities who often rely on public transit, have been disproportionately impacted by COVID and will likely need a more sustained rollout due to other access issues and potential need for booster shots.
While this analysis show gaps in vaccine site distribution as a snapshot in time and the landscape is evolving rapidly as we move away from mass vaccination sites to community-based locations, it reveals a strategic and timely opportunity to provide easily accessible vaccine sites through existing infrastructure. In Covina, CA, the Foothills Transit agency had built a three-level bus depot and PNR garage last March just before COVID hit. The transit agency pivoted to use this new space to provide an easily accessible location for transit riders to get vaccinated. They also “wanted a location that would support the community where this transit center is located.” Across the country, at least 450 public transportation providers are providing free transit to vaccination sites, according to those behind the VaxTransit campaign aimed as providing those without transportation access to vaccines.
We know that transit agencies across the country have been rocked by devastating loss of riders, issues hiring bus and train operators, and an unpredictable future as we climb out of the pandemic mess. Instead of continuing to place more of a burden on RTD to go out of its way to transport people to vaccine sites, why not bring the two services together and remove that additional burden from RTD? We can partner with vaccine operators to utilize RTD’s existing infrastructure to reach more people and take advantage of existing opportunity. By placing one service near another service, the resulting proximity and ease will allow more equitable access to those who most need and deserve it, and give more residents a fair shot at getting a shot.
Are you working to build a better future for everyone in Metro Denver?
If so, The Denver Foundation would like to get to know you.
As the largest and most experienced community foundation in Colorado, The Denver Foundation is committed to strengthening our communities. Much of our work is shaped through conversation and connection with nonprofit, community, and government leaders from across the seven-county region.
Join Dace West, The Denver Foundation’s Vice President of Community Impact, for Foundation Face Time, a series of one-on-one conversations in locations cross the Metro area. Bring your perspective on trends in your community and challenges in your work. Do you have ideas and solutions to address some of those issues? We’d love to hear them—and to explore how we might work together.
Join Dace for a 30-minute, Foundation Face Time session on Thursday, April 25 between 1-5 pm at RISE Colorado, 1595 Elmira St #201, Aurora, CO 80010. Please register here to guarantee a spot. Email Stef Flores to be informed of future dates, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates.
Please note: These sessions are not intended as opportunities to assess your chances of receiving funding from The Denver Foundation’s Community Grants Program. If you’d like to hear more about grant opportunities or have specific questions about applying, please start by review our guidelines .
For information or additional questions, please contact Programs Assistant Ashley Clevenger.
Vengan a caminar y compartir su visión para la futura ruta 303 Artway Heritage Trail que conectará la estación en 40th y Colorado con Holly Square en Northeast Park Hill. El sábado 6 de abril, nos vamos a encontrar en Dahlia Campus para caminar ese segmento de la ruta. Ayudenos a crear este importante recurso para la comunidad.
Undesign the Redline is an interactive exhibit connecting the intentional and systematic racial housing segregation of the 1930s to political and social issues of today, through the powerful narratives of the people and communities affected by redlining and its legacy.
Explore the history. Be inspired by stories of vision and change. Become part of the conversation for new equitable policies and practices.
Thanks to Shift Research Lab, Denver Arts & Venues and the McNichols Building for supporting this event!
On November 9th, I awoke and did not want to get out of bed. To be honest, with several weeks passing, I am only now beginning to be able to process the news without a feeling of deep depression. I am trying to sort out my own perspective.
There are so many responses. I’ve seen deep seated resignation with an underlying sentiment of disappointment – “I knew it all along, of course this was the only outcome.” I’ve seen others invigorated, saying “we’ve been here before and know how to fight” or “this is our call to come together in action.” I’ve seen us attacking each other for being too progressive, for not being progressive enough, for taking action, for not taking action. I’ve seen us bringing together our constituencies and trying to make sense of this separately and together. I’ve seen us obsessing over each new element of news, each new statement and each new appointment. I’ve seen us avoiding avoiding news altogether, trying to pretend this did not occur.
As the white leader of an organization focused on racial and economic equity, I often struggle with whether I should be in this role for Mile High Connects. I am also reminded that it is imperative that as a white person, I use my privilege and the access that I have as a result of that privilege to tackle social inequities. These election results and the role that people who are white played in this outcome mean that is true today more than any other.
This one thing I am sure of is that Mile High Connects stands with and values communities who are most under attack. We will continue to fight for protections of civil rights and for protections and supports for those who are disadvantaged. We will stand with immigrants and refugees, with people of color, with people of all sexual and gender identities, with women, with people who are poor, with people who speak other languages and those worship in a variety of ways. We will use our resources and our power to continue to drive toward equity in our region and our nation.
Let us come together. Let us build power together. Let us show compassion together. Let us lift up justice today and every day.
In addition to being the fiscal and physical home of Mile High Connects, The Denver Foundation (TDF) is a strong partner in MHC’s efforts to ensure that the Denver region’s communities offer all residents the opportunity for a high quality of life. As a member of the MHC Steering Committee, TDF helps to guide MHC’s overall strategy, and TDF’s Economic Opportunity program provides supports MHC’s core activities through an annual grant. The two organizations also work together on the ground through specific projects and partnerships to advance both groups’ missions.
One of the many areas in which TDF and MHC work closely together is in developing a network of anchor institutions throughout the region that are focused on building community wealth in the neighborhoods and places in which they are located. Educational and health care institutions, as well as municipal governments, are deeply anchored in particular communities. They have tremendous potential to be economic anchors for these communities, especially by approaching their hiring and purchasing through a local lens. Sprawling campuses like the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora contain within them thousands of jobs, and they spend millions of dollars on everything from sophisticated medical equipment to hospital scrubs, food, office supplies, and services like childcare that their employees need to be successful at their jobs. MHC and TDF identified educational, health care, and municipal institutions throughout the Denver region that are easily accessible through the region’s mass transit system, and invited them to meet together in early April 2016 to discuss how they might work together to strengthen the communities in which they are located.
Institutions such as the Anschutz Medical Campus, Regis University, St. Anthony’s Hospital, the University of Denver, and the University of Colorado’s Denver campus have all indicated their interest in supporting the neighborhoods and residents in their surrounding community through a variety of strategies. MHC and TDF are working with some of the individual institutions to help them develop hire local programs, which may include training for those facing barrier to employment to qualify for jobs with the institution, and to review procurement policies to determine where their supply chains can be adjusted to focus more on local businesses. MHC and TDF are also developing a broader strategy to connect these institutions in an anchor network that will develop strategies to collectively harness their hiring and buying power in ways that will benefit the region’s most vulnerable residents and communities.
MHC and TDF are also both committed to developing solutions to the accelerating problem of involuntary displacement through gentrification that is occurring in many Denver neighborhoods. TDF has a long history of supporting community organizing and of organizing directly in many neighborhoods in which residents are now under intense financial pressure because of rising rents. In communities like Globeville, Elyria, and Swansea, where transit oriented development is also contributing to skyrocketing housing costs, MHC and TDF are working with community partners to support grassroots strategies to help residents stay in their homes. In Westwood, MHC and TDF have worked together to provide relocation assistance to very low-income residents of a manufactured home park who were displaced by new development.
The list of partnerships and joint projects could go on and on. The Denver Foundation is proud and honored to be MHC’s partner in improving the quality of life for all of Metro Denver’s residents.
Affordable Housing & Community Facilities
Shared Spaces At Transit Hubs – How Transit Access And Shared Spaces Go Hand-In-Hand hosted by Denver Shared Spaces and Medici Communities
Learn from the incredible collaborative work of DSS partner Mile High Connects on how shared spaces are being incorporated into transit oriented developments, intersecting nonprofits with housing and services while addressing the need for quality employment and affordable fares. You won’t want to miss this given the immense amount of development currently underway in our region. Click here to register.
City & County of Denver – Dedicated Revenue Source for Affordable Housing
Mile High Connects and many of its Steering Committee Organizations are deeply engaged in the ongoing conversation at the City & County of Denver regarding the establishment of a permanent, dedicated revenue source to support affordable housing preservation and development. Negotiations and stakeholder discussions remain ongoing, but the current proposal is to capitalize this resource with a combination of a 0.5 mill increase in property taxes and a new impact fee, ranging from $0.40 to $1.70 per square foot depending on development type) on all new development in the City. Based on current assumptions, the City estimates this will create approximately $155 million in new revenue over the next 10 years. MHC remains committed and supportive of the plan overall and is committed to remaining engaged with all relevant departments within the city to help shape the governance, public engagement, and utilization of the resources should the proposal pass City Council. MHC encourages all Denver stakeholders to engage in the process if you haven’t already. See the updated tentative calendar of events as it relates to this proposal Revised Housing Calendar (2016 07-26).
Capital Absorption – Leadership Forum
The Mile High Connects Capital Absorption Team hosted a Leadership Forum at the Denver Foundation on July 28, which was attended by over 40 leaders in the government, non-profit, development, brokerage, philanthropic, and private investment fields. The group engaged in a lively conversation about how to best achieve the ultimate goal of the Capital Absorption work, which is to build sustainable systems and structures to deploy public and private capital into strategic projects that create or preserve affordable housing, community serving commercial facilities, and mixed-use developments in low-income communities near transit. The team shared with the group its efforts to date and received valuable feedback and creative ideas for how we might continue to drive the work forward for the remainder of this year and into 2017, including the buildout in partnership with DRCOG, of a regional community development pipeline designed to help connect project sponsors with impact investors looking to place capital.
Three Things to Consider About the Nonprofit Real Estate Market
While skyrocketing housing costs are at the forefront of our minds, it’s also important to bear in mind the impact of rising commercial real estate rates as well. The risk for small businesses and nonprofits of being priced out of Denver is extremely high, according to the report released by Denver Shared Spaces. Nonprofit Centers Network, and Mile High Community Loan Fund. Learn more about the potential for displacement, ways to combat rising costs, and check out Mayor Michael B. Hancock’s commitments regarding nonprofit space here.
Upcoming Training and Feedback Opportunities
Sharing Your Inspiring Stories
The Denver Foundation has launched an interactive website called Floodlight for nonprofits to connect with donors of the Foundation. If you have an inspiring story to share, come learn how to build your story by using the platform. When: August 22nd, 9:00 – 11:00 am. Space is limited! Contact Carmen Holleman, cholleman@denverfoundation to RSVP or for more information.
As Denver continues to grow and change, what are your biggest concerns? What changes in land use, mobility, parks and recreational resources would make life in Denver more enjoyable? Click here to take the Community Vision Survey.
With support from Mile High Connects, Growing Home is working with community members in the Blocks of Hope neighborhood to advocate for affordable housing and development. The project is focused in Southwest Adams County, a neighborhood which is already feeling the impact from two future RTD stations. Alma Garza is a natural community leader, “I felt that that I never or rarely had a say in what happens in my neighborhood. But, I’m excited things are changing. I have always been interested in fighting for what my community needs. I finally feel like my interests are being heard, words are being put into action. I am an immigrant mother of three and I’m organizing with Growing Home. Together with Growing Home we are identifying and developing community leaders who can give voice to community needs and perspectives in decision making forums and strengthen our neighborhood. With the help of Growing Home, we are organizing the 500 unit apartment where I live, probably one of the only ‘affordable places’ within Blocks of Hope. The tenants are addressing security, repairs, and employee relations. We are working hard to ensure that tenants know their rights, we are also building a sense of community and accountability in the buildings .We are bringing tenants from different buildings together that are experiencing common problems. There’s power in numbers!” *translated from Spanish
Blocks of Hope Resident Leaders
Westwood is a neighborhood in southwest Denver, SW of the corner of Federal & Alameda. The auto-oriented streets have narrow sidewalks and are poorly lit. Westwood Unidos organizes community members to help them achieve their priorities for a safer and healthier community. Resident-led projects include improving sidewalks, slowing traffic, improving transit access, and improving lighting.
In 2014 – 2015, with support from Mile High Connects, Westwood Unidos and 9to5 Colorado successfully advocated for the Route 4 Bus Line to be re-opened on Morrison Road. Since then, the route has been a big success; ridership numbers have justified the need for this route in the Westwood community.
On July 18th, the community celebrated a big victory with the successful passage in City Council of the Westwood neighborhood plan. Community members testified in support of the plan, which recommends calming traffic, increasing transit access, improving greenways, allowing for accessory dwelling units, and building a recreation center.
In 2016, the Westwood Unidos Safety Action Team has been busy beautifying the neighborhood to make walking and biking safery. Their project creates a safe walkway along 8 alleys that connect Federal Boulevard and local schools. These 8 alleys are overgrown with brambles and weeds, covered with graffiti, and full of dumped furniture and trash, making it impossible to walk safely and comfortably.
In order to tackle these alleys, on Saturday, April 23 Extreme Community Makeover and Westwood Unidos organized over 300 volunteers from Westwood and surrounding communities to pick up trash and clean graffiti during “Go Westwood! On June 28 and July 16, dozens of residents tackled the alleys again, continuing to clean graffiti and beginning to install art. The goal is to complete the alley on July 28th with the installation of art and mosaics and painted tires.
Finally, Westwood Unidos has partnered with various organizations to train youth leaders with a focus on economic opportunities and access to nature. In addition to testifying successfully in front of City Council, the youth leaders are semi-finalists in a grant to open a youth-run bike workshop.
Community members and partner organizations interested in getting involved in Westwood Unidos are welcome to the monthly Westwood Unidos Safety Action Team meeting, every 4th Monday of the month at 9 AM at Paloma Villa, 4200 Morrison Road.
Alley Project in Westwood
In the course of longer-term campaigns, there are always periods of time where the detail work needs to get done and the public face gets a little quieter. For Mile High Connects and the Affordable Fares Task Force, we are in just such a moment. After productive continued meetings with RTD senior leadership team members in January, March and April, the Task Force is working through the more specific nuances of formalizing partnership with agencies already conducting means testing to provide income-qualification for the program, as well as continued work to secure external resources to match the anticipated foregone fare revenue for RTD at the program’s launch. We anticipate this work to continue throughout the summer months and invite all who are interested in this part of the conversation to join us as we work through the many technical, technology and policy components.
Meanwhile, conversations about adding a transit benefit to the MyDenver, card issued to thousands of DPS students each year, are picking up steam. While there is still much to explore, there is good energy around addressing the transportation affordability challenges for Denver youth, as it relates both to school choice and to supporting youth employment, internships, after school programs and other things that relate to overall well-being.
First and Last Mile Connections & Accessible Transit
Since March, the Montebello Organizing Committee (MOC) has worked closely with a group of key community stakeholders convened by Denver City Councilwoman-at-Large Debra Ortega to create a new bus stop that will take the place of the former Park-and-Ride near Peoria Street and Allbrook Street. The primary goal of the group was to ensure that the bus stop is safe and accessible to local riders. In addition to MOC and members of Councilwoman Ortega’s staff, the group included representatives of RTD, Denver Public Works, Denver District 11 City Councilwoman Stacie Gilmore, Denver Police Department District 5, Denver Fire Department Station 27, and Mile High Connects.
As a result of this work, Denver Public Works has identified several actions that it will take immediately, as well as mid- and longer-term actions to improve pedestrian safety, traffic flow and emergency vehicle access. In addition, RTD will conduct a point check at the new bus stop to count the number of pedestrians crossing the street to use RTD service. The success of the project demonstrates the effectiveness of a strong collaborative process and commitment to its goals by all members of the group.