Denver Rescue Mission set for another $9 million from the city

The nonprofit’s handbook previously banned employees from acting on same-sex attraction and rejecting their “biological sex,” but the city says it’s now in compliance with Denver’s anti-discriminatory policies.
3 min. read
A line of beds inside the Denver Rescue Mission’s new shelter in Northeast Park Hill. June 30, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Update: City Council passed this funding at its meeting on Monday, Feb. 13.

Our original story follows below.

Denver Rescue Mission could get an additional $9 million from the city to operate shelters for people experiencing homelessness, bringing its total contract to around $22.7 million, and extending the partnership through the end of 2023.

The contract is on the Safety, Housing, Education and Homelessness Committee's Wednesday meeting consent agenda. It's the third year of a three-year contract, which funds the entirety of operations at a shelter with more than 450 beds.

The expanded contract comes after a little more than two months after Denverite first reported about discriminatory language in Denver Rescue Mission's employee handbook that banned workers from "acting on same sex attraction" and rejecting their "biological sex."

A few days after that report published, the religious nonprofit said it would remove the language from its handbook.

The language was in violation of its contract with the city, which includes anti-discrimination clauses. Civil rights experts also told Denverite that the handbook was likely in violation of state and federal law.

"Our goal in updating our handbook was to focus on our Statement of Faith and Mission Statement as our guiding light for Mission operations," said Denver Rescue Mission spokesperson Stephen Hinkel. "We welcome all qualified applicants to join us in caring for our community's most vulnerable."

The Department of Housing Stability (HOST) works with the city's contracted partners on compliance with city policies.

"We have received and reviewed Denver Rescue Mission's recent policy changes to ensure they meet these non-discrimination requirements," said HOST Spokesperson Derek Woodbury. "We appreciate their willingness to work with us to ensure non-discrimination practices are carried out and adhered to in City-funded facilities, operations and employment."

Woodbury said that since the start of the year, the department has begun requiring partners to submit policies for review before any new or expanded contracts to make sure they meet anti-discrimination requirements. They also require information on how partners inform employees of the policies.

Councilmember Robin Kniech, who chairs the Safety, Housing, Education and Homelessness Committee, denounced the handbook language a few months ago.

"When entities choose the path of inclusivity, they aren't just complying with our policies, they are rising to meet the expectations of our broader community and better able to serve those in need," Kniech said.

"The Denver Rescue Mission has updated its policies to come into accord with these expectations, and I believe in reconciliation... what matters now is that anyone in urgent need of shelter is served, and that dedicated individuals qualified to help meet those needs can be employed with dignity and equality on Denver contracts."

The contract will go before all of Council in the coming weeks.

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