Every other month on Tuesday nights, 20 guests arrive at 6pm for dinner at Park Hill Congregational United Church of Christ (PHUCC). Many are mothers. “They have a lot of similarities with any of us,” says Karen Truesdell, one of three coordinators of the effort. Yet, she acknowledges, their lives have been very different. “We encounter people who have had illnesses, sometimes mental illness, sometimes poor decisions. But we don’t delve into that. The main thing is that there are a lot of commonalities with our lives.”
The guests are 20 homeless women who, through the coordinated efforts of 14 churches in the Women’s Homelessness Initiative (WHI), can receive dinner, breakfast and a safe warm place to sleep every night of the year. The women sign up for the night through a lottery at the St. Francis Center downtown, which provides shelter and services for men and women who are homeless. A van and driver provided by the Salvation Army brings the women to the church in the evening and back to the St. Francis Center at 7am in the morning.
WHI started six years ago when a group of people in Capitol Hill United Ministries decided to “stem the tide of more and more women being on the streets and no more resources being offered.” They created a handbook to help churches get started.
Truesdell, along with two other volunteer coordinators and 94 volunteers, have kept the program going at the Park Hill church for four years. “We originally committed to six months—and we didn’t know if we could do it. Now we just assume we will keep going. It runs so smoothly that it’s hard to remember any difficulties we had getting started.”
Everything is a volunteer effort except the laundry, which they get done with cash donations.
The spring carnival on April 21 is a free event, but families in the community are asked to bring donations of the food and personal items noted. For more information or to volunteer, visit parkhillucc.org. For more information about WHI, visit chumdenver.org/womens-homelessness-intiative.
Free! Spring Carnival
April 21, 5–7:30pm, free
Family-friendly activities to benefit Women’s Homelessness Initiative
Donations requested: toothbrushes, toothpaste, cough drops, ear plugs,
women’s feminine products, coffee, tea, sugar.
2600 Leyden St. – www.parkhillucc.org