Founded in Denver in 1986, New Genesis is the only Denver area homeless program for working people. Designed out of a need to more successfully improve the lives of the homeless, New Genesis provides a stable environment, helping people get off the streets and back into society. New Genesis emphasizes a proactive resident care management program and outlines specific behavioral objectives for residents, including the ability to live a more productive and independent life, maintain a job and help improve the lives of other residents. Residents are required to be substance free and hold a full time job.
New Genesis works to provide more than just emergency services to the homeless; each year, we assist over 600 people off the streets and back into a fully productive lifestyle.
In 2004, the Denver Board of Directors of New Genesis challenged its staff and leadership to identify other communities with homeless populations that could benefit from the New Genesis clinical model. The Women and Men's Transitional Housing Program was established in Las Vegas in October, 2005 and we continue to research additional communities to establish shelters.
New Genesis Recovery
New Genesis is a community of recovery that recognizes homelessness as a temporary situation, not a personal weakness.
New Genesis promotes an optimistic and enthusiastic environment and guides its residents toward realization of their emotional and practical goals.
New Genesis implements a community approach to Denver's homeless problem. New Genesis' unique treatment design allows individuals to recapture their independence by demonstrating responsibility and accountability for their actions.
New Genesis Programs
Forming partnerships with a variety of social service agencies, New Genesis accepts referrals from the criminal justice system, domestic violence centers, and homeless shelters providing emergency help.
Unlike other shelters, New Genesis requires clients to pay rent, participate in the upkeep of the shelter, and work. This proves to be very effective in ultimately breaking the cycle of homelessness.
Requiring accountability (by having clients pay rent) is economically efficient -- client fees cover 80% of costs, and provide significant leverage to our donor base.
Tight controls exist for the first 30 days, then freedom (and anxiety) gradually increase until clients are able to cope with day-to-day life on their own. 50% of clients make it through the first 30 days. Of those that do, 70% ultimately succeed.
Successful graduates re-enter the community with newfound social skills, increased employment opportunities, and an appetite for independent living.
The program entails three distinct phases:
- Orientation Phase: New Genesis provides a thorough evaluation of the strengths a client brings into the experience and an individual service plan is developed.
- Residential Phase: Clients focus on continued sobriety, increased employment opportunities, restoring credit, and saving money.
- Mentoring Phase: Graduates are challenged to give back to other clients of the program by facilitating group counseling and developing a speaker's bureau that communicates the work of New Genesis throughout the community.
New Genesis in Denver
The Denver Post
HELPING THE HOMELESS FLY SOLO, BY PAGE PEARY AND SALIM HAJI
Denver's 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness has brought welcome attention to a difficult issue, but the recent conflict between Curtis Park residents and the St. Francis Shelter's pilot homeless program has made us question whether the city's plan goes far enough in finding innovative ways to address the issue of homelessness.
In particular, the plan is lacking in two critical areas:
Using a market-based philosophy that requires greater accountability and participation from the homeless population that is being served, and an increased focus on intensive services to address root causes of homelessness.
Without an increased focus by the city in these two areas, conflicts like the recent one between the St. Francis Center and Curtis Park residents will continue, and the homeless will end up being shuffled from one neighborhood to the next, only increasing frustration and anger over time.
Our perspective is based on our first-hand experience with the homeless in Denver. Twenty years ago, Central Shelter opened to provide emergency shelter to men during the winter months in the basement of Central Presbyterian Church. We soon became frustrated seeing the same faces with the same problems every year. We decided to question the basic assumptions of the program and to consider a new approach, based on a set of three fundamentally different assumptions about the drivers of the problem.
First is that for many, homelessness is caused by financial instability, substance abuse or other factors. Any successful intervention would have to address the underlying cause through aggressive management of each individual's case. Many need to relearn basic social skills that are critical in holding down a job and being a productive member of society.
Second, accountability is critical. Too many well-meaning social programs patronize the homeless as people who have to be taken care of. A successful program would have to have the homeless take responsibility for and participate in their recovery - by actively looking for work, participating in the upkeep of the shelter, and paying a nominal fee in return for the services they are getting.
Third, transitional housing and support are critical. Safe, affordable housing would have to be a critical component, as well as ongoing support.
Based on the above assumptions, five years ago Central Shelter was renamed New Genesis and the focus of the organization shifted from warehousing the homeless to helping them help themselves. The three-step program now in place stresses accountability and facing reality. From day one, clients help with cooking and cleaning at the shelter. They are also expected to pay a nominal rent of $6 per night and are required to attend intensive support groups to address issues like substance abuse.
From there, the structure is gradually loosened, and the focus shifts to self-sufficiency, including building up a savings account with a few hundred dollars. Step three is the transitional housing phase, when clients are paired up with a roommate, move into an apartment, and are expected to pay 80 percent of the rent.
About 70 percent of clients who complete the first 30 days of the program are able to get back on their feet and live productive, independent lives. In addition, more than 70 percent of the operating costs of our organization are covered by client fees. In dealing with homelessness, accountability is not only effective, it is also economically efficient.
The city's plan is a "housing first" plan. This model seeks to remedy the problems of homelessness by first providing housing. Of the plan's eight stated goals, the first three deal with providing subsidies for housing in one form or another by funding permanent and transitional housing, expanding the capacity of the city's emergency shelters as a temporary stopgap measure while housing is made available, and providing funds for foreclosure and eviction prevention for low-income people.
Providing services to the homeless is only a fourth goal in the plan, and clearly takes a back seat to housing. The services aspect of the city's plan is focused on helping the homeless use existing public services, and the plan also calls for additional funding for outpatient mental health services for 55 people and substance abuse treatment for 31 people.
Of the $12.8 million in annualized costs for the city's plan, $9.2 million or 70 percent is earmarked for the three housing-related goals - permanent housing, shelters and prevention. Funding for services is $2.8 million. The balance of the funding is for a number of public safety, education and outreach programs.
An emphasis on housing is important, but our concern is that without a radical change in the approach to providing services to the homeless population, spending more than $9 million a year on low- cost housing will not address the root cause of the problem, and taxpayers may not get the return they are looking for on their investment.
We believe that a primary reason for our success rate at New Genesis is that we don't immediately send our clients to transitional housing. Instead, putting them through the intensive treatment program is key to their ultimate success in a more independent setting.
A lot more emphasis on accountability is needed in the city's plan. For many of our homeless clients, it takes time to learn (or relearn) that a successful, self-sufficient life requires taking on financial and other responsibilities, and being held accountable for them.
The city's approach still relies too much on traditional assumptions when dealing with the homeless population. We would like to see further dialogue on the plan as it continues to evolve, and we would urge civic and business leaders to question whether the plan goes far enough in terms of providing the level of aggressive case management that is needed, as well as using accountability to turn our homeless population into productive, self-reliant residents of our city.
1680 Sherman Street
Denver, Colorado 80203