Two Denver nonprofits get money from Bezos to address homelessness and housing insecurity

And Bank of America funds two others working on hunger and homelessness.

Samantha Camerino, Stephanie Kaufman and Ben Grossman walk through City Park looking for people to interview for the annual Point in Time Survey of Denver's unhoused population. Jan. 28, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Samantha Camerino, Stephanie Kaufman and Ben Grossman walk through City Park looking for people to interview for the annual Point in Time Survey of Denver's unhoused population. Jan. 28, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Donna Bryson. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s fund to support families experiencing homelessness and hunger is giving a total of $1.7 million to two Denver nonprofits.

The Denver Indian Family Resource Center, which is getting $450,000, and the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative, which is getting $1.25 million, are among 42 organizations across the country to be awarded grants from the Day 1 Families Fund that Bezos launched in 2018. This is the first year any Denver organization has received Day 1 funding.

Tara Manthey, who is executive director of the Denver Indian Family Resource Center, said the $450,000 was the largest single grant ever received by her organization. The Denver Indian Family Resource Center was founded in 2000 to support families torn apart by the racist legacy of placing Native American children either in boarding schools or with white adoptive parents. The center’s work includes helping parents caught up in the child welfare system who must prove that they can provide adequate housing.

Manthey said that in the wake of the impact that the pandemic has had on the economy, her center has been using federal COVID relief funds to help Native families pay rent.

“We definitely see the demand and need now and know that it will be even harder in 2021,” Manthey said.

She said her center would use the grant for a five-year project that includes hiring staff to help distribute rental assistance and to help families navigate housing resources.

The Metro Denver Homeless Initiative recently released a report highlighting the disproportionate impact that homelessness has on minorities, including Native Americans. Native Americans make up fewer than 1 percent of the region’s population but 5.6 percent of people experiencing homelessness according to the latest annual Point in Time. The Metro Denver Homeless Initiative conducts the Point in Time survey of homelessness and oversees other data systems that provide pictures of homelessness that also show the problem hits minorities harder than whites.

The Metro Denver Homeless Initiative also coordinates support for people experiencing homelessness in Denver and six other Front Range counties. It will use its $1.25 million from the Bezos fund to provide more housing and for projects that include hiring a staffer to recruit and retain landlords willing to rent to people receiving housing assistance.

Also Wednesday, Bank of America announced that two other Denver-area groups, We Don’t Waste and Ready to Work Aurora, had each been awarded a $200,000 grant from the bank’s national Neighborhood Builders program. We Don’t Waste rescues food that restaurants and other businesses would discard and helps distribute it to those in need. Ready to Work Aurora addresses homelessness with employment and housing programs.

Neighborhood Builders grant recipients also receive a year of leadership training for the executive director and another employee. Under the program started in 2004, Bank of America has provided more than $260 million to hundreds of organizations in 50 communities across the country, including a total of 10 in the Denver area.

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