Spark the Change Colorado Ignites Action in Unhoused Communities

Jun 18, 2024

A critical issue facing Denver is the rise in homelessness. Recognizing the urgency, the City of Denver launched a citywide initiative to address this crisis with the goal of housing 1,000 unhoused individuals by the end of 2023. Spark the Change Colorado, a Points of Light Global Network Affiliate dedicated to igniting change through the power of service and civic engagement, played a crucial role in mobilizing volunteers to support this effort.

Volunteers answered the City’s call, contributing their time and energy in various ways. Through their dedicated service, Denver’s goal of housing 1,000 individuals was not only met but surpassed. We spoke with Leanne Mersmann, manager of Volunteer Services at Spark the Change Colorado, to learn more.

Adrian, House1000 Mental Wellness Coordinator, shows a volunteer how to hand out hygiene kits. Caption and Photo Provided by Spark the Change Colorado.

Tell us about a project or initiative you’re working on that’s making a big impact on your community.

According to a 2023 Point in Time survey, 1,400 Denver residents were unsheltered and living outdoors without access to the basic housing and services we all need to thrive. This problem has expanded dramatically since 2019. The City of Denver decided to bring together a coordinated citywide response to the homelessness crisis affecting many Denverites.

The goal was to house 1,000 people experiencing homelessness and permanently close encampments by the end 2023. With the help of Spark the Change Colorado volunteers, we reached that goal! Volunteers moved luggage, made beds, cleaned hotel rooms, installed carbon monoxide detectors, made dog toys, put together hygiene kits and so much more throughout December 2023.

The results of this remarkable effort are truly inspiring:

  • 1,034 individuals were moved indoors, with 98% remaining housed
  • 270 unique volunteers participated, with 43 volunteering multiple times
  • 708 hours of service were contributed
  • 100% of volunteers felt appreciated and expressed willingness to volunteer again

“At Spark the Change Colorado, volunteerism has no age, no particular look, race, gender or background. All of our volunteers are the heroes that embody what it means to show up for community! This is why we love doing what we do at Spark! It’s so easy to find pride and joy in celebrating every volunteer who is sparking change with us across the state.” —Patrice Hawkins, CEO

Married couple Amanda and Brandon volunteered more than anyone else in the month of December 2023. They are taking residents’ bags off the bus and into their new tiny homes. Caption and photo provided by Spark the Change Colorado.

How are you recognizing and thanking volunteers for their contributions?

We had a volunteer appreciation party in January with a special video from all the housing directors and Mike Johnston, the mayor of Denver, saying thank you to our amazing volunteers. During Global Volunteer Month, we will be running a campaign to highlight our volunteers from across various program areas to thank them for their commitment and love of community. We plan to run a campaign where we take photos of people doing their volunteer service, and will call it, “Caught Caring…” We have many nonprofit partners we plan to ask to help highlight their volunteers as well. This would go along with a photo of volunteers holding a sign saying why they volunteer.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give someone who’s looking to get more involved in their community through civic engagement?

If you’re someone in Colorado, go to the Spark the Change Colorado website! We have a large database of nonprofits throughout the state that lists their needs and volunteer opportunities that anyone can read and sign up for.

Points of Light

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