The Gathering Place was founded in 1986 by two University of Denver, School of Social Work graduate students, Toni Schmid and Kathy Carfrae.
As part of their university studies, they were both interning at various homeless shelters in the Denver area. Each morning, they watched as the homeless women and children had to leave the safety of a shelter and return to the harsh realities of the streets.
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. At the time of its inception, approximately 25-35 women a day visited The Gathering Place.
In 1990, The Gathering Place moved to its current location at 1535 High Street. From 2000 to 2005, visits increased by 62%, with an average of 250-350 women and children seeking emergency services each day. As we began to max out our building’s capacity, we started to plan for the future. In August 2006, demolition and construction began on a new 28,800 square foot building, which was specifically designed to be a safe refuge that also provides adequate space for our programs and services. From August 2006 to June 2007, The Gathering Place was temporarily housed at the Montview Boulevard Presbyterian Church (1980 Dahlia Street) 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. Now we operate out of a state-of-the-art facility and provide programs and services to an average of 270 women and children a day.
During the last thirty years, the TGP has evolved with changes driven by increases in the number of people seeking assistance, an intent to provide healthy lifestyle choices, member identified needs, and eagerness to implement best practices.
- During 2010, the Physical and Mental Health Program was developed to increase access to health care and promote wellness.
- In 2013, educational programming was expanded to include job readiness components because members recognized that they had education and skill gaps following the prolonged economic downturn.
- Recently, TGP staff have been learning and implementing trauma-informed care practices, which has further evolved into efforts to engage members in agency decision making.
Yet, the words of Tina Stein, TGP’s first employee and who had experienced homelessness, remain at the heart of our philosophy and mission: “We are here to do with, not for.”
updated May 24, 2016