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Community Conversation: Denver Rescue Mission

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On Tuesday night, the Broncos went to the Denver Rescue Mission to meet families and decorate gingerbread men.

What does Denver Rescue Mission do?**

"We're a homeless shelter at the very basics of what we do, but our whole goal is to help people become productive, self-sufficient citizens. There are several things we do, one is emergency care at our Lawrence Street Shelter, which is making sure people don't freeze to death, making sure people don't starve to death, they have a warm place to stay at night, they can take a shower—all those kinds of things.

"At the same time, where the Broncos have really been probably the most involved with has been at the facility at The Crossing, which is for families and they're really involved with the kids. Our goal is to break that cycle of poverty and change things. Everything that we focus on is trying to—not only provide emergency care, but try to help them become productive, self-sufficient citizens."

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about the people the Rescue Mission serves?

"When everybody thinks of the homeless, they think of the guy on the street holding the sign. Something like 60 percent of the folks that are homeless are families. So it's not the guy on the street holding the sign—yes, he may really be homeless, he may not be—but I think that's really a misperception.

"Another thing that I think is important and I tell folks is, 'Listen, a lot of people are just one paycheck away from being homeless.' There's really no difference than you or I. And there are a lot of reasons for being homeless—that's another misperception, that people that are homeless are alcoholics. There is a fair amount of that and we have 250 people in our New Life rehabilitation program, but at the same time the No. 1 thing is they lost a job. The No. 2 is they lost their housing. Then you think about the medical issues and family issues, like domestic violence. So there are a variety of reasons for being homeless and the truth is they're just like you and me."

A big part of Denver Rescue Mission's message and work focuses on restoring dignity and pride. Why is that so important?

"I think people that come to us, a lot of times they're at the very bottom. They don't think anyone cares about them. So, that's the faith-based part of what we do. We say, 'Hey, God loves you and has a purpose for your life.' So we do try to restore that dignity, help them realize, 'Hey, I can take care of myself and I can get back on my feet. I can learn life skills.' A lot of folks are lost, any self-value is really missing, they're like 'I've failed completely.' So we try to restore that and help them and say, 'You know what, you can do this and we believe God loves you and has a purpose for your life.' That's really encouraging for people."

You just broke ground on the Lawrence Community Center downtown. What do you expect the impact of that to be for Denver?

"I think this is the kind of place—Lawrence Street Community Center—where someone can come and they don't have to be out in an alley. They can take care of basic human needs like getting a drink of water, being able to go to the bathroom—it's not in an alley or something like that—they can take a shower, they can actually do their laundry. Forty percent of the homeless have jobs—that's kind of an interesting statistic—and frankly, they have cell phones. So it's a place they can charge their cell phones.

"So what we hope to be able to do, is No. 1 be able to bring them into a safe place and connect them with services. They may not be just our services, but it may be other services that they may be able to get. If we can get them in we can start developing relationships, contacting them—I think it's going to have a huge impact on our community because these folks have a place now where they can come in and feel loved and cared for and we can try to get them off the streets because really that's our whole goal is to help them become productive, self-sufficient citizens. Let's get them off the street."

How did Denver Rescue Mission's relationship with the Denver Broncos begin?

"One of the wonderful things is a few years ago, we were renovating this facility—it was almost nine years ago—we were renovating this facility and were going to have families for the first time. So, we had a lot of discussions with [Vice President of Community Development] Cindy [Kellogg], representing the Broncos, so the Broncos did a wonderful thing for us and said, 'We want to help you with the youth center.' So we named it the Denver Broncos Youth Center and [the Broncos] provided $150,000 over three years, which enabled us to build out the Broncos Youth Center. About the same time, Champ Bailey became very involved with us and that really led to a lot of great things going on with the youth that we serve there.

"It's a great transient population—although they can live there up to two years, these are for the most part hotel rooms. So it's more likely that they're there for 120 days or 180 days, something like that, we hope that they'll stay longer but we have this opportunity to impact them. The Broncos Youth Center is so much more incredible than anything that we really could have done on our own."

For kids who have been dealing with such tough issues, how does the Broncos Youth Center give them a place to learn and grow with kids going through some of the same circumstances?

"We have mentors helping them with school work, that sort of thing. A lot of them have been through different schools. If you're in poverty, you're chances of graduating from high school go down. So we really work on those kinds of things, but the fact that they can come together and have an opportunity to work together and have people that love them."

The holiday party at The Crossing is a Broncos favorite. What has it meant to you over the years?

"It's got to be one of our most favorite events. For the families that are there it's an incredible thing. They are treated like they're royalty and that is just an incredible experience for them. To have these players that these kids and everyone wants to be, they admire, to come alongside them and just encourage them, is an incredible experience. Not the least of which, they get the best food, they get all kinds of gifts—it's awesome."

When Champ Bailey announced his retirement this past year, his community work with Denver Rescue Mission was noted in nearly every announcement and piece on his legacy—what does it mean to you to be connected with him?

"Oh yeah, it was great. He really just did serve very unselfishly, we so appreciate him."

You have really embraced your Broncos community buzzword SERVE. How has that been integral in the brand and message of Denver Rescue Mission?

"It's what we try to do and for years it's been what we try to do, is serve people. We love the [Broncos Be A Champion SERVE] t-shirts (laughs). I'm looking right outside my office in the administrative area, we took a picture of all of our employees in our SERVE t-shirts at the stadium, which it's been a few years now, we should probably take another one. We still distribute the SERVE shirts to people and our staff that comes on board, in our newsletter that's what I'm standing in—a SERVE t-shirt. It's just such a great word that we love. This is what Christ came as, he came as a servant. So we love that this is the word that you guys chose and this is what we really try to do."

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