We are a community of safety and hope where positive relationships, choice, and essential resources transform lives.
Note: We refer to those we serve as "members," but no fees are ever charged for our services or programs.
The Gathering Place (TGP) was founded in 1986 by two University of Denver, School of Social Work graduate students: Toni Schmid and Kathy Carfrae. While interning at homeless shelters in Denver, they observed that women and their children did not have a safe place to spend the day and instead spent their limited resources trying to meet their basic needs. Try as they might, women who were experiencing homelessness had little support for activities that would help them become self-sufficient, like finding a job or securing transitional housing. Through their observations, Schmid and Carfrae came to believe that women and children needed a safe place to go during the day. With a $6,000 donation, the two women started The Gathering Place in a small, one-room facility on Santa Fe Drive. Despite its initial size, The Gathering Place offered warmth, protection from the streets, and nutritious meals to women and children experiencing homelessness and poverty. At that time, women and children made up about 10% of Denver's homeless population and approximately 40 women a day visited TGP.
Tina Stein was the first employee at The Gathering Place. In 1986, Stein and her husband (a cab driver) were homeless and staying at a shelter, and when she had spare time she would come by TGP and help out. More than just becoming TGP's first employee, Stein was mother, auntie, sister, grandmother and inspiration for thousands in our TGP community. She remained at The Gathering Place as Director of Guest Services until her death in 2003. From her experiences with homelessness, she influenced - perhaps more than any other single person - TGP's philosophy. She often said that if we had nothing to give other than a safe place and our caring selves, people would still come and always need us. "We are here to do with, not for," Tina ingrained in the TGP philosophy.
As demand for services increased, The Gathering Place moved to an aging office building at 1535 High Street in 1990. The expanded space was adequate for the next decade, but demand still continued to grow. With much though, TGP leaders conducted a feasibility study to determine a solution to the growing space inadequacy. The study determined that tearing down the existing building and rebuilding at the same address was more cost effective than moving or remodeling. In August 2006, demolition and construction began on a new 28,800-square-foot building that was specifically designed to house TGP programs and to be a safe refuge for TGP members. From August 2006 to June 2007, The Gathering Place was temporarily housed at the Montview Boulevard Presbyterian Church in Denver's Park Hill neighborhood. Construction on the new building was completed in September of 2007, and The Gathering Place moved back to 1535 High Street.
Not surprisingly, The Gathering Place has evolved with changes driven by increases in the number of people seeking assistance, intent to provide healthy lifestyle choices, member identified needs, and eagerness to implement best practices. For example, the Education and Job Readiness Program was developed because TGP members recognized that they have education and skill gaps following the prolonged economic downturn and the Physical and Mental Health Program was developed to increase access to health care by bringing partner agencies and pro bono health professionals on site.
"My name is Sonja. I'm a single mother and a grateful member of The Gathering Place." Several years ago, Sonja was unexpectedly unemployed and in need of housing. She worried about how she would prepare her daughter for school when they didn't have a place to live. Sonja was scared, but determined to find solutions. Then they discovered The Gathering Place. Using a combination of The Gathering Place's programs, Sonja found housing and temporary employment in a matter of months. "We are doing great and don't need The Gathering Place as much anymore, but I still come every Wednesday to crochet class." Then she brims with pride saying that her daughter works hard in school, earning all A's and B's. When you make a donation to The Gathering Place, more moms can worry about A's and B's instead of jobs and housing. Approximately 8,000 adults and children turn to The Gathering Place for help each year.
Berda's journey to complete a High School Equivalency (HSE) Certificate is a remarkable story of perseverance. As a young woman, she dropped out of high school to get married, started a family, and eventually moved the Denver from Texas. When her son was still young, she tried different classes and the pressures proved to be too much. She decided to wait until her son was grown before returning to the dream of obtaining her certificate. When she tried again, a tutor at The Gathering Place advised her to focus on one test at a time, so Berda chose one subject and studied hard. She was disappointed when she failed her first attempt, but collected herself and was successful on her subsequent effort. It took a few more years, but Berda passed her final test just months shy of her 60th birthday. "A lot of people encouraged me and my tutors wouldn't let me stop," she says. And her advice to other students is simply, "Don't give up!"
It may come as no surprise, but the Food Services Program is one of the most popular programs at The Gathering Place. "The food is delicious, healthy, and my son will eat it," exclaims one member when asked what her family thought of their lunch. "I'm a vegetarian and there are few free meal options that work for me at other agencies around Denver," says another. Some older members tell us that eating meals at The Gathering Place takes pressure off their tight, fixed-income budgets - plus it gets them out into the community and keeps them in touch with friends and acquaintances. "Hot breakfast mornings are the very best, though," declares one long-time member. "Pancakes at The Gathering Place seem to feed and warm the body and heart." The Gathering Place provided more than 65,000 meals to individuals, who may have had nowhere else to turn, in 2016.