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Wraparound housing support: The Delores Project

April 15, 2024

When Kim Jefferson first thought about moving to Colorado, it sounded like a great idea. She was recently divorced, and her children were grown.  

 She had no idea she would eventually find herself without a home. “When I first got here, I was very depressed,” said Jefferson. 

Someone she knew told her about an organization that offers shelter with wraparound services, including mental health services. The program was called The Delores Project 

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Kim Jefferson

“I had a permanent bed and then a new building opened up and I moved over there,” she said. “Then I was able to get transitional housing upstairs and I was there for three years.” 

As The Delores Project grew, Jefferson grew with them. “Delores was the safest place I’ve ever been in,” she said.  

With the help of case managers at the program, she received a Housing Choice Voucher and was able to successfully transition out of the shelter.

Denver Housing Authority describes the voucher like this, “The Housing Choice Voucher, formerly known as Section 8, is a housing subsidy program that is funded by the federal government to assist very low to low-income families who live within the community.”  

“I do still go back home to see my grandkids, but I’m happy here,” said Jefferson.  

The Delores Project 

The Delores Project partners with people experiencing housing barriers to identify their path to stability. By providing shelter, housing, and supportive services, The Delores Project works alongside individuals as they overcome barriers and challenges. 

The Delores Project is located on a campus called the Royal Village. There you can find close to 100 units of workforce housing.  

Emily Wheeland is the CEO of The Delores Project. “Folks would come into the shelter and stabilize, but they were still low income and there wasn’t enough housing for them to move into,” she explained. “What we wanted to create was a continuum of housing that people could move into.”  

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Emily Wheeland, CEO of The Delores Project

“I fell so in love with Delores and the community that I never wanted to leave,” she said about her nine years with The Delores Project. 

“Something that differentiates us is that we operate in community and everyone that is part of the community has a say in how things happen,” said Wheeland.  

The Delores Project offers shelter and services for women and people who identify as transgender or non-binary. It also offers a supportive housing program for people who are formally chronically homeless, have a disability, or have a low income. 

After someone leaves the shelter, The Delores Project supports them with wraparound housing support including mental health wellness, for up to two years.  

“We’re a small fish in a big sea,” explained Wheeland, but the organization’s impact is about the quality of service. “We have a big emphasis on hospitality.” 

Right now, there are 50 people living in the shelter and 35 people in the housing program. Wheeland explained, “We’ve gone to more permanent housing solutions and about 90% of those individuals are still housed today, which is about 20% above the national rapid rehousing success rate.”  

While housing is a part of healing, it’s hard to maintain that if they don’t have the support going forward, that’s what The Delores Project focuses on.  

“Our model is to be in relationship with people,” said Wheeland. “We feel, and studies have shown, that connection and community heal trauma. We know that everyone who comes through our doors has had some form of trauma.”

“The end goal is for folks to transition out of homelessness,” explained Wheeland. “While people are with us, our goal is to provide wraparound care and be a fully therapeutic environment so they can begin healing from trauma.”  

With the support of The Denver Foundation and its donors The Delores Project has been able to help people while they move from homelessness into housing.  

“One of the unique things about the funding from The Denver Foundation is that it’s unrestricted. There’s a demonstrated trust in the work we’re doing,” said Wheeland.  

They’ve been able to use the unrestricted funds for their rental assistance budget. The Delores Project provides four to nine months of rental assistance for people transitioning into housing. Unrestricted funds, Wheeland said, are rare and important. “The Denver Foundation is one of our larger foundation donors and most consistent. That source of local support is really wonderful,” said Wheeland.  

The Denver Foundation believes adequate, accessible housing is essential for a community to thrive. We have been funding The Delores Project since 2018.  

Photo courtesy: Armando Geneyro