The mission of Colorado Homeless Families (CHF) is to provide transitional housing and supportive services for homeless families with children and to help them become economically self-sufficient within eighteen months to two years. CHF's objective is to rescue families from homelessness and poverty and equip them with important life skills through CHF support services to help them move forward. CHF support services target the root causes of homelessness such as inadequate education, employment issues, unhealthy relationships, domestic violence or other family problems and serves the entire family with case management, counseling, educational seminar and support group meetings, summer youth program and access to the food/clothing/furniture bank. The tools, skills and training that families acquire from CHF support services enables them to become better parents and contributing members of society.
After the oil bust and the huge Savings & Loan crisis in 1987, there were more than 35,000 business failures in the Denver metro area. A record number of people were lining up in unemployment offices across Colorado in desperate need of help. Homeowners were defaulting on mortgages at record rates which resulted in over 14,000 vacant HUD home properties. It was a record year for home foreclosures, a record year for bankruptcies and a record year for families to become homeless. This was the first time that Connie Zimmerman, founder, realized that families with children were living on the streets or in their cars. Families classified as the 'new poor,' who had education, training and skills were for the first time in their lives homeless, due to the 1987 economic situation. The economy was also affecting the, 'working poor,' these families were earning minimum wages; working at hotels, McDonald's and gas stations, mostly due to lack of higher education and professional skills. When the housing costs, energy costs and utilities began to escalate these families were no longer able to keep up with the rising cost of living, including housing. The 'new poor,' and 'working poor,' families found themselves in poverty due to illness, family breakdown, unemployment, personal tragedy, low income, and/or insufficient education and life skills. They lacked the resources and a support service network to help them obtain affordable housing.
Colorado Homeless Families is a non-profit transitional housing organization that was established and incorporated in January 1987 by Connie Zimmerman. CHF housed their first family in December 1988 and for the first three years, rented 6 properties from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and was operated almost entirely by volunteers. In the summer of 1992, CHF purchased 10 foreclosed properties from RTC Trust. In September 1996, CHF built 12 town homes at the Ralston Gold Complex. In July 1997, at the Ralston Gold Complex, CHF built the Family Educational and Resource Center, which houses the CHF offices, educational seminars, food bank, and community meeting space. This building has enabled our staff to work more professionally and efficiently, as well as provide a place for our families to be educated, counseled and supported on their road to self-sufficiency. Since 1987, Connie purchased over 75 HUD properties. Thirty-one of those properties were sold at cost to homeless families graduating from the CHF transitional housing program to self-sufficiency.
In 2003, The Village, an expansion project of 3 duplexes, was built. In November 2004 the volunteers of HomeAid Colorado and the television show, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition built the last duplex for the project and the completion of a recreational area with a basketball court, playground and picnic tables. In June 2006 after the discovery that the house adjacent to the CHF office was a methamphetamine lab that went into foreclosure, CHF purchased the home and had it demolished for public safety. In 2010, a group of over 60 volunteers from the community helped turn this vacant lot into a garden for the families at CHF. During the summer, the children and families learned how to grow fruits and vegetables in the garden.
In November 2005, CHF purchased another property adjacent to the Village with a 3 bedroom house on .77 acres. The house was named the Farm House because of it's historic look and age. In 2010 CHF broke ground on the 'Farm House Extension Project,' and seven additional transitional townhomes were built on the .77 acres behind the farm house. The project included three years of planning, fundraising and extensions and on December 15, 2010 the long awaited 'Farm House Extension Project' was finished.
CHF Transitional Housing Program Provides:
CHF provides affordable housing with a rent set at approximately 30% of the families' income. CHF creates a personalized 18 month to two year program for each homeless individual or family. During this time the families are able to develop a stable home environment for themselves and their children. Some families need more time due to educational requirements or health problems. The families must have short and long-term goals and demonstrate initiative to improve their financial and social situations. The parents of these families must be willing to attend college or a trade school, or be working at a position, which will provide sufficient income with the opportunity to improve their financial situation within the length of the program. Each adult is required to volunteer 2 to 18 hours per week of community service to the CHF community.
Recently Anna came to CHF after leaving her very abusive husband. She has 3 small children and the clothing that she could pack for them. She wasn't worried about anything but having a safe place for her and the children to stay. When the staff at CHF brought in the beds, dressers, couch, tables and chairs, etc., she was amazed and overwhelmed. When she went to the CHF food bank for some food, shampoo, tooth paste, laundry soap, and items for her refrigerator she was filled with joy. Then she was taken to the CHF clothing shop where she received clothes for the children, and herself, new pillows, sheets, towels and other items; she broke into tears saying, "This is too much!"
Many families react like Anna, overwhelmed to tears when they receive the things they need. It can be quite humbling. All of the items given to the families at CHF come from the generous donors of the community. We are so grateful to everyone who gives to CHF as this allows us to provide CHF families with things they need in order to start over. When they graduate from the CHF transitional housing program they take everything with them, except for the appliances. All things given to the families are courtesy of our local community.