Colorado nonprofits partner to shelter vulnerable Coloradans

DENVER — Nonprofit Energy Outreach Colorado and the Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Denver and its affiliates are partnering to tackle the growing need for warm, safe and affordable shelter for vulnerable Coloradans.

Their work together began in 2009 and has grown to impact many of the 1,800 units of low-income housing in Colorado managed through Archdiocesan Housing.

When Catholic Charities collaborated with Archdiocesan Housing and the City of Denver to open the Samaritan House Women’s Shelter in Denver in August 2017 – the largest women’s-only homeless shelter in the state – they brought in Energy Outreach Colorado to install $81,000 in energy efficiency improvements to the building’s lighting and HVAC equipment.

EOC obtained additional low-income weatherization funding from Xcel Energy and the Denver Office of Strategic Partnerships to complete its portion of the $5.1 million project to renovate the 32,000-square-foot vacant structure. Samaritan House Women’s Shelter provides emergency refuge for up to 100 single women on a nightly basis and transitional housing for an additional 50 women to enter a 29-day non-medical detox program.

“We would have had to cut back on something else without EOC’s contributions,” said Tom Wanzeck, vice president of operations for Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Denver. “EOC enabled us to provide a secure, warm and visually pleasing place for our clients. It’s the gift that keeps on giving through lower energy usage and costs.”

Another recently-completed renovation that Catholic Charities and EOC partnered on was the Golden Spike Apartments in Denver. Archdiocesan Housing acquired the 12-story property in December 2016 to provide Section 8 low-income housing for seniors and disabled individuals. EOC managed a $700,000 weatherization project funded through the Colorado Energy Office to replace the building’s boiler system and install high efficiency lighting, new refrigerators and low-flow water fixtures in the 200 apartments.

Golden Spike resident Sandra Gonzales, 79, is happy with the building’s improvements and greatly appreciates having an affordable, safe and secure home.  “I do feel comfortable and safe,” she said. “It would be so hard to have to move in with a family member. Thank goodness for these low-income places for those of us who get by on our social security benefits.”

EOC and Catholic Charities first worked together in 2009 to weatherize a 55-unit Glenwood Springs affordable housing community owned by Archdiocesan Housing.

EOC contracts with utility companies and other public and private organizations to obtain funding for weatherization measures that reduce energy usage and costs for low-income consumers. Then the nonprofit installs improvements in affordable housing communities, shelters and other nonprofit buildings serving low-income populations.

“EOC provides a lot of coordination and support to pull it all together,” Wanzeck said. “The missions of our two organizations are so aligned and we serve many of the same clients.”