The National Coalition against Domestic Violence reported that the state of Colorado received nearly 17,000 reports of domestic violence in 2014. The very next year, Colorado investigated over 29,000 cases of suspected child abuse and neglect, according to the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA). HUD estimates Colorado’s homeless population is nearing 11,000 individuals, including families, veterans and young adults. While numerous organizations across the state provide critical services to address these issues, there is only one agency in the state that focuses on the interconnectedness of the three.
With deep roots in the Metro Denver community, Family Tree’s mission is to help people overcome child abuse, domestic violence, and homelessness to become safe, strong, and self-reliant. As the only organization in Metro Denver addressing the connection among these issues, Family Tree empowers vulnerable people on a path toward economic independence through the pillars of Child & Youth Services, Domestic Violence Services, and Housing & Family Stabilization Services. Founded in 1976, Family Tree and local entities began filling service gaps to abused/neglected children/families afflicted by domestic violence in Jefferson County. They later expanded services to those experiencing homelessness and broadened the service area to include seven-county Metro Denver.
“Early on, Family Tree recognized the interconnectedness of homelessness, child abuse and domestic violence,” explained Scott Franssen, Family Tree’s Chief Development Officer. “We believe that to truly the patterns of behaviors associated with each issue, we strive to offer a collective approach.”
With 90 employees, over 1,300 volunteers and 8 program sites across the Metro region, Family Tree’s impact and outreach has expanded significantly in the past 40+ years. In 2017, Family Tree served over 8,000 individuals through face to face interactions. The organization served an additional 20,000 individuals through their domestic violence crisis line and homelessness helpline. Family Tree offers an array of targeted programs – ranging from intervention programming to divert at-risk youth from future involvement with the welfare system to domestic violence trainings and workshops.
“We didn’t have a choice, we had to leave our home in Idaho,” recalls Liz S, a former Family Tree client. “It wasn’t safe for us anymore. When my son Sam and I got to Colorado, I didn’t have a job and we had nowhere to go.”
Liz and Sam stayed in hotels until the money ran out. Then they pitched a tent in a friend’s backyard. It wasn’t a great situation, but it was better than sleeping on the street. “Being a mom is hard. Experiencing homeless with your son is even harder.” Liz shared “I didn’t want Sam to know how bad it was. We found Family Tree and they helped us find a place to live. Once we had a roof over our heads, I felt the dark times were behind us. Sam started school and I got a job doing what I love, helping people.”
Watch their full story at www.thefamilytree.org/liz.
One such program is the House of Hope in Englewood, Colorado. House of Hope is a residential facility providing safe shelter and supportive services for women and children experiencing homelessness. Residents are welcomed for up to 90 days, where they receive critical support including (but not limited to) an on-site therapist, job skills training, childcare and housing assistance. Last year House of Hope provided emergency residential services to 144 individuals, and 66% of families moved into safe, stable housing. This significantly surpassed Family Tree’s goal of 50%.
House of Hope is a great example of Family Tree’s dedication to providing supportive services that directly address homelessness, domestic violence and child abuse. Due to the program’s success, Family Tree is replicating and expanding the model to include families experiencing homelessness.
In 2017, the organization approached Urban Land Conservancy with a unique real estate opportunity in Southeast Aurora. Excelsior Youth Center was unfortunately closing their operations and were looking for another nonprofit entity to could take on the ownership of the 31-acre property and continue providing benefit to community. Family Tree introduced ULC to Excelsior, as they had been in conversations about utilizing a portion of the campus for programming. In May of 2018, ULC accepted the donation of what is now known as Oxford Vista. This confirmed Family Tree’s opportunity to expand their residential programming as they could now lease four buildings (at a rate of $100 per year) to launch a new program.
In early 2019, Family Tree will launch the Generational Opportunity to Achieve Long Term Success (GOALS) Program at Oxford Vista. With an estimated 40 beds in four adjacent buildings, the GOALS Program will provide transitional housing to families experiencing homelessness. The two generational approach will provide services to both parents and children including job training and early childhood education. With temporary housing offered for up to 45 days, Family Tree will have the ability to provide consistent and dependable support to hundreds of families.
“ULC is fortunate to have this newfound partnership with Family Tree,” said Aaron Miripol, ULC’s President & CEO. “We are excited that Oxford Vista will provide an ideal space in a supportive community where the GOALS program can bring positive impact and bring new opportunities to families across the Metro region.”
ULC recently had the pleasure of welcoming Family Tree’s President & CEO Scott Shields to our most recent inclusivity roundtable. This event was part of ULC’s ongoing inclusivity round table discussions, with this specifically focused on homelessness within the Denver region. November’s discussion offered eye opening insights to better understand and act with compassion towards our Denver’s homeless community. In addition to Family Tree, we welcomed Robbie Goldman of Dry Bones and Cole Chandler of the Colorado Village Collaborative.
ULC is grateful for our partnership with Family Tree. As a long standing advocate of their work, we are excited to now grow this partnership to support both of our missions to address inequalities throughout the Greater Metro area. ULC is excited to officially welcome Family Tree and their staff to the Oxford Vista campus, and believe their GOALS program will provide exceptional support to the families who need it most.
If you are interested in learning more about Family Tree, you can visit their website at www.thefamilytree.org. You may make donations on the website and learn about volunteer opportunities. Additionally, you can also visit their brick and mortar thrift store “The Treasure Trunk” located at 5892 W 44th Ave, Wheat Ridge, Colorado. Clients of Family Tree receive vouchers to shop in the store for free, and the general public can find bargain deals, and even donate used items to the store. 100% of the proceeds directly support the organization’s programming.