Sandi Barros once hung dreamcatchers above her cot in a Denver shelter to ward off the nightmares that accompanied years of homelessness and mental health struggles.
Now, a picture of Barros’ icon Marilyn Monroe graces the crown of her bed in her own apartment secured with the help of the Delores Project Steps to Stability program. Marilyn Monroe has been a source of inspiration and strength for Barros while she lived out of her truck and then sought refuge at the Delores Project’s homeless shelter for women and transgender people who don’t have access to services elsewhere.
“No more nightmares,” said Barros, pointing to her dreamcatchers that only serve as decorations in her bright, one-bedroom apartment. “Marilyn never got to be home much, either. Now I got to take Marilyn home, and we can both rest.”
About six years ago, Barros turned to the Delores Project’s homeless shelter after living out of her truck for years.
The Delores Project and Arroyo Village affordable housing units, nestled in the West Colfax neighborhood, provide 24/7 shelter for women, transgender people and those who are gender non-conforming and experiencing homelessness.
The goal is to find shelter residents somewhere to live as quickly as possible, whether that be through Arroyo Village or somewhere else in the city and then help them get settled.
“We really are focused on low-barrier, housing-first shelter,” said Stephanie Miller, the Delores Project chief executive officer.
A patron is not turned away if they don’t have some form of documentation, if they show up intoxicated or if they have a pet, Miller said.
“We just want to make sure they are safe to our community, but we are as inclusive as we can be,” Miller said. “We are a housing first shelter, and then we stick around to make sure they get stabilized, so it’s not just like, ‘Here are your keys. Good luck.’”
The program provides connections to mental health services, links to landlords who offer affordable housing, job skills training, help connecting to community programs in their neighborhood and consideration for onsite, permanent housing in Arroyo Village where Barros lives.
Arroyo Village is made up of 35 units of low-income, permanent supportive housing for those managing a disability and 95 units of affordable housing for individuals and families in the workforce.
Barros’s favorite part of her unit, where she has lived for more than a year now, is the view from her 14th-floor window that streams in sunlight and hope she lacked for so many years on the streets.
Barros said a mental health episode caused her to lose her job at Walmart years before, and she found herself unable to pay her rent. Barros stayed in the Delores Project’s shelter for five years off and on — sometimes slipping back into her old ways and living out of her car again — until she got serious and accepted the conditions of the Delores Project’s on-site housing including behavioral health and life skills help.
“Thanks to the Delores Project, now I’m able to cook a hot meal,” Barros said, tearing up at the couch the non-profit provided her. “I’m able to have a hot cup of coffee. I have a TV and my sewing machine. This is my home. I still can’t believe it.”
Address: The Delores Project, PO Box 1406, Denver CO 80201
In operation since: 2000
Number of employees: 35
Annual budget: $1.97 million
Percentage that goes directly to client services: 70%
Number of clients served in 2019: 330
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