What does it feel like to you when you are welcomed home? For me, it’s a sense of unconditional acceptance, an ease and assurance that I can be fully myself. It’s knowing that my strengths will be trusted, and my presence celebrated. It’s knowing that I can let my guard down and ask to be cared for, helped, and supported. Being welcomed home is knowing that I am part of an interconnected and interdependent group of people.
TGP exists because of a mutual goal - being there for our shared community. Today, we’re excited to give you an update on some of our members: Princess and her family.
The Gathering Place is what we build together - it’s why we have such a wide range of services. This month, we’re giving you a small peak behind the scenes to answer why we’ve added even more services for our community.
When Jennifer first walked into The Gathering Place (TGP) in late 2017, the last thing on her mind was finding a community.
The Supreme Court’s Decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade and end federal abortion rights has caused widespread sorrow and indignation among those of us who believe in individuals’ fundamental right to make decisions about their own bodies. At TGP, we have seen, heard, and felt the fear in our members since the decision was announced.
Shai has experienced homelessness in four different states, but now she calls TGP’s 24/7 shelter home. According to Shai, “I tell everybody, especially the new people that come here, that The Gathering Place is the best place in the state.”
At first, Laura was nervous about coming to The Gathering Place. It was January of 2021 and she had just been released from prison. She didn’t know where to go, and her parole officer didn’t offer much help. A friend assured her that TGP would provide the support she needed without judgment, but she still wasn’t sure.
Paula started coming to The Gathering Place in 1996 while she was working across the street and a friend mentioned that TGP served lunch. She soon realized that TGP provided so much more, including community, safety, and hope.
It is with both sadness and gratitude that we announce that Julia Stewart will be departing from her role of President & CEO of The Gathering Place in order to move closer to family. Her last day as President & CEO will be Friday, June 24, 2022, but she will remain on staff in an advisory capacity through July 8th to support a smooth transition. We are so grateful to Julia for her eight years of dedicated service to TGP.
Emma was pregnant with her third child when we met her in November of 2021. Emma and her two children had just driven from Maryland to Colorado to start their new life. She had already secured a full-time job, but her family was struggling to find affordable housing. “We had nowhere to stay, so we came to TGP. We got a motel voucher and started coming every day so the kids could play and I could see the case managers and fill out paperwork.”
When you get off of the elevator at The Gathering Place, there’s a photo of Sonja and her daughter, a small child at the time the picture was taken. Sonja first started coming to TGP in 2005 when she was unemployed.
It’s not often that TGP members end up serving on our board of directors, but that’s exactly the path that Jennifer took when she joined our oversight team as a community volunteer in 2019. The fact that it was less than two years since Jennifer first arrived at The Gathering Place highlighted just how far she had come in that time and how committed she was to helping others do the same.
Shavonne never expected to move to Colorado, but COVID-19 had other plans. Previously living in Florida, she lost her job at the start of the pandemic and quickly fell behind. She couldn’t afford her apartment any longer, couldn’t find a long-term shelter in her area and realized she was at risk for experiencing homelessness if she didn’t find the support she needed. A Google search, of all things, pointed her toward TGP’s daytime center where she was able to access resources to meet her basic needs as well as secure transitional housing at our 24/7 shelter.
Princess Norwood is experiencing homelessness for the first time with four kids following a split from her husband. She went from having the stability of another income and being able to care for her young kids to being on her own. Princess recently sat down with us to discuss her experiences at TGP and what she values the most during her time here.
2020 was a difficult year for everyone. The pandemic exacerbated many systemic problems and highlighted how deep those disparities are for poor women, women of color, and transgender individuals. In response, we are adding new programming, increasing our focus on emergency services and ensuring a continuum of supports are in place to help people not just resolve an immediate crisis, but to make long-term changes to obtain long-term stability.
One of the earliest losses of 2020 was Bridget’s Boutique, The Gathering Place’s clothing bank that distributes clothing to members who have an emergency need or are looking for comfortable, casual clothing.
Feletcia, has lived in Denver for six years and has experienced homelessness twice during that time. She has always kept a job. In fact, she kept four jobs to afford rent. This is her story.
To hear her describe it, Josephine Flores’ adult life has been defined by struggle. In recovery for the last 24 years, she bounced between shelters for months on end, dealt with modern hurdles such as identity theft and was forced to rebuild her life from the ground up as so many people experiencing homelessness in our community do.
After long and thoughtful consideration, The Board and the Executive Team of The Gathering Place have concluded that it is time to discontinue our social enterprise, Art Restart, and The Card Project.
The current administration's rollback of the Affordable Care Act rulings that protected transgender persons from health care discrimination is cruel and inhumane. At The Gathering Place, we assert that health care is a human right and should never be held hostage to political ideology.
Right now, our services are more necessary than ever. Unemployment has spiked to over 12% in Denver alone; additionally, it is estimated that nearly half of all people making less than $40,000 are unemployed. Food insecurity was a crisis before COVID-19; rising unemployment means it will only get worse. In addition, the population we serve is at the greatest risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19. The Gathering Place is working to connect individuals who potentially have COVID-19 to life-saving resources.
This Wishlist Wednesday, you can help in one of three ways.
The city has opened several free COVID-19 testing sites. Check this list to see if there is one opening near you.
Breonna Taylor. Tony McDade. Atatiana Jefferson. Pamela Turner. Tanisha Anderson. These are just some of the countless Black women and transgender individuals who have died needlessly at the hands of police officers in our country. We honor and remember them, along with George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, David McAtee, and the many other Black men who have been killed by police officers and vigilantes.
The Gathering Place is an essential business and will remain open to provide life-saving resources to Denver’s women, transgender individuals, and their children.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has cast a harsh light on inequality in our society. Recommendations like self-quarantining, washing hands, and staying home from work and school are just not possible for everyone we serve. Despite the outbreak, TGP is committed to continuing to serve these vulnerable people during this public health emergency by providing access to hygiene, food, and other critical resources to support the health and safety of this vulnerable population.