Article and Photos by Joe Contreras Latin Life Denver Media, (See photo gallery below) Some text from event program
What a fun time everyone had at the 80th Gala Celebration for the Denver Housing Authority (DHA). Mayors past and present along with hundreds of supporters came together to recognize and honor all the great work DHA has accomplished over eight decades. The Gala took place December 15 at the Grand Hyatt in Downtown Denver. Luis Canela of Telemundo Sports MCd the nights activities.
Former Denver Mayors Federico Pena, Wellington E. Webb, John Hickenlooper and current Mayor Michael Hancock were recognized as Honorary Chairs. All were present with the exception of Hickenlooper who sent Jamie Van Leeuwen, Senior Advisor for Governor and former Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper. (See more of their impressive achievements in housing during their terms, below).
Senator Michael Bennet told the audience, “I want to recognize the Denver Housing Authority for its 80 years of service to our community. Denver is a more livable, diverse, and vibrant city because of what you do every day, even though we know there’s a lot more to do. Last month, I had a chance to go with Ismael to the Mariposa District and see everything DHA has done to rebuild the neighborhood.
Despite all the new buildings going up across the city, it’s still really hard for a lot of people to live here. When we were in Mariposa, we had a chance to sit down with a few residents for a discussion about housing. All of them were struggling to make the pieces fit. And the reason for that is because, for the last 50 years, incomes for most people have barely grown even as the cost of health care, child care, and especially housing have shot up. It’s left people in that community – and across our country – living month to month; right on the edge – one family emergency or sudden illness from disaster.
It’s had a corrosive effect on communities. An older woman told me, “When my husband died, no one came. We used to take care of each other. We just don’t have that sense community…it’s nice to know you belong somewhere. Stories like that are why DHA’s work is so critical. You provide that belonging to thousands of Coloradans. More than that, you provide the measure of stability and dignity that comes from having a place to call home”.
Mayor Michael Hancock told the crowd that he had started his career at DHA while pursuing a Master’s degree. “During my tenure at DHA, I was fortunate enough to help implement and oversee the first-ever athletic, cultural and leadership training programs for inner city kids living in public housing – a cause that back that was near and dear to my heart and still is today.
Today, the city is proud to do work with DHA, our most recent endeavor in which we were able to expand our affordable housing fund and partner with them. This partnership will generate a new estimated 105 MILLION dollars’ worth of funding in the next five years.
With DHA, the city will bring more funds in the form of bonds to accelerate building and preserving much needed affordable housing units. These efforts are vital to make sure that we continually look at creative ways to increase affordable housing for all our residents.
Throughout the evening guests were treated to a fantastic dinner, open bar and the non-stop dance music of The Purple Xperience, a Prince cover band from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Many stayed and danced the night away well beyond the ceremonies and the event ending time.
The live auction conducted by former NFL running bank and TV sports personality Reggie Rivers. The auction and paddle raiser fundraiser brought in over $66,000 in contributions to achieve the fundraising goal of $300,000. All proceeds from the Anniversary Gala will support the nationally recognized Youth Employment Academy (YEA). YEA is just one of several award-winning DHA programs provided to the agency’s 26,000 children, youth, adult and senior residents living in 11,000 units located across the city. Since 2007 YEA has been offering underserved young adults, ages 18-24, services that guide them to graduate from high school, earn their GED and industry specific certificates, attend post-secondary education, receive hands-on job training and become employed. YEA’s employment and training opportunities include: • Culinary Academy • Osage Café • Arts Street • Industry Academies • Pre-Professional Occupations in Health Care.
1938 was a year when America was still reeling from the Great Depression that saw 15 million workers unemployed and the minimum hourly wage at 40 cents per hour for a 44-hour work week. Following authorization of President Roosevelt’s United States Housing Act in 1937—designed to help “provide enough for those who have too little”—the Denver City Council established the Housing Authority of the City and County of Denver. Since those early beginnings, the Denver Housing Authority has evolved into an affordable housing leader, with local and national acknowledgments that include:
• Largest Housing Authority in the Rocky Mountain Region
• An award-winning architectural designer
• A nationally recognized renewable energy leader and builder of sustainable
• Consistently ranked as one of the area’s top five commercial developers
• A nationally awarded provider of resident programs and services
Civic: Honorable Judy Montero
- Presented by Sen.Michael Bennet
“In my first year as a senator, back in 2009, I remember walking with Judy through the South Lincoln Homes. That’s what it was called then, now it’s the Mariposa District. DHA was just beginning to redevelop the area. It’s striking to see the changes almost a decade later.
Now there’s a child care center. There’s better access to public transit. The rec center is still there. You even have the Osage Café run by young people from DHA’s culinary academy.
A lot of credit for that belongs to Judy – to her persistence, her collaborative spirit, and her levelheaded approach to getting things done as City Councilwoman for District 9.
If you look closely, you’ll see her fingerprints all over the District – from the new buildings in Mariposa, to the new commuter rail stations, to the 16th Street Pedestrian Bridge.
For that legacy and more, we honor Judy as our Civic Champion.”
Building: Pinkard Construction
Presented by Sen.Michael Bennet:
“The company is a Denver icon. It got its start with James Pinkard Senior, who came here in 1937 as an orphan from Missouri. He built a life in the city, started a family, and went on to serve in the Pacific theater during World War II.
Generations later, his legacy of service endures in the company he founded. James Sr. apparently lived by the maxim: “Treat people fairly. Work hard for your clients. Strive for excellence.” We honor Pinkard Construction for exceeding that standard in its partnership with DHA.
Pinkard not only produces high-quality work, it appreciates that the unique challenges of affordable housing require creativity and persistence to overcome. Pinkard also shares a genuine commitment to the idea that affordable housing has the power to not only revitalize neighborhoods, but to transform lives.
For its partnership over the years, we recognize Pinkard Construction represented by Jess Becerra, a Senior Project Manager for Pinkard Construction. as DHA’s Building Champion”.
Resident: Melba Davis
Presented by Mayor Michael Hancock
“Melba Davis, a long-time North Lincoln Homes resident, has devoted her life to assuring that DHA residents across Denver have an advocate. She’s been a vital leader in ensuring the safety and quality of housing for those in need.
From healthy living programs, to building development projects to get out the vote programs, Melba’s persistence and caring for fellow residents makes her a true Resident Champion”.
Community: The Bridge Project
Presented by Mayor Michael Hancock:
“The University of Denver’s Bridge Project has had a consistent presence in public housing neighborhoods, enabling staff and volunteers to build strong relationships and serve as a safe space for youth to learn and grow throughout the year.
Their mission, which is to provide a path for youth in Denver’s public housing neighborhoods to graduate from high school and go on to attend college or choose a vocation is honorable.
They understand that everything is connected, housing, education, and opportunity. It all connects. Their leadership in facilitating the development of important life skills and self-sufficiency for the next generation is key.
In 2017, 100% of the Bridge Project seniors graduated from high school; and 100% of Bridge seniors enrolled in a postsecondary program. The Bridge Project is a true Community Champion”.
Mayor Michael Hancock • • Implemented $105M Affordable Housing Bond Initiative. • Launched ConnectHomeDenver, offering residents digital connectivity and giving families, students and the elderly increased access to affordable Internet services, computer devices and computer training. • Received $30.5M Choice Neighborhoods Planning & Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant to develop Sun Valley EcoDistrict.
Governor John Hickenlooper • Received American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Stimulus funding: $30M leveraged over $100M in construction, modernization and energy efficiency improvements plus $22M HOPE VI Grant for South Lincoln Homes revitalization, resulting in the new Mariposa District. • Energy Performance initiative starts with a 12-year contract with Honeywell to implement a comprehensive energy efficient program. • Created over 1,500 new units for the homeless through Denver’s Road Home program.
Mayor Wellington E. Webb • Launched North Lincoln Campus of Learners, a national model created to provide educational, vocational and job training for families. • Received HUD $25.2M HOPE VI Grant to redevelop Curtis Park, replacing 286 obsolete units with 550 rental and home ownership units. • Received $20.2M HUD HOPE VI Revitalization Grant and $200,000 HUD Neighborhood Networks for the redevelopment of East Village Townhomes, Thomas Bean Towers, Arrowhead Apartments and Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theater.
Mayor Federico Peña • • First Homeownership Program for residents. • Las Casita Homes redeveloped for community serving amenities, including Sam Sandos Westside Health Center and family transitional housing at Warren Village II. • Established Citizens Housing Task Force for DHA dispersed housing plan and report to Denver City Council.
Photos by Joe Contreras, Latin Life Denver Media