A reader asks: Are the nonprofits that serve people in homelessness cooperating?

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A snowy night over the Salvation Army’s Aurora headquarters, Oct. 30, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Kevin Beaty and I rode along with a Salvation Army overnight outreach team and got a sense of the collaboration among agencies and organizations that serve people experiencing homelessness.

A reader had asked about coordination among the various nonprofits. The city agency Denver's Road Home helps with this. Chris Conner took over Denver's Road Home this summer. He had worked directly with young, homeless people at Urban Peak, experience that gives him credibility with nonprofit leaders to whom we have spoken. Connor replaced Bennie Milliner, a longtime ally of Mayor Michael Hancock who had been a polarizing figure.

A few years ago Denver's Road Home contracted with the Salvation Army, which for a decade had been sending out some form of a Search & Rescue team to check on the well-being of people living on the streets and take those who wished to go to shelters.

The Salvation Army is the only group contracted by the city to provide this service at night. It works with shelters run by the Salvation Army and others. Search & Rescue team members also drive women to overnight shelters provided by churches and check in at Denver Health's emergency room to see whether anyone being discharged wants a ride to a shelter.

When a group's shelter fills up, it turns to another group that might have space available.

I've heard about regular meetings among leaders of the Salvation Army, Volunteers of America, Catholic Charities and the Denver Rescue Mission, all of which manage shelters and other homelessness and housing projects.

I have not found the nonprofits to be competitors. If there are overlaps in some areas, my sense is that it is because the challenge is so great.

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