(Contest Nominee) ST. FRANCIS CENTER Gives Homeless Individuals a Safe Place to Go During Day as They Transition Back into Society

St. Francis Center is one of seven nominated charities for Citywide Banks’ Charity Hand-Up Contest taking place from December 1-14, 2012. The Denver/Boulder community is invited to participate by voting on Facebook and spreading the word about these seven Colorado causes. The top charity will receive $5,000 and the public can enter to win 1 of 10 prizes.

Being homeless does not mean being hopeless. With the right resources, believes Tom Luehrs, executive director of St. Francis Center, homelessness can be a temporary situation.

Founded in 1983 by the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado, St. Francis Center is a day center in downtown Denver that offers a variety of services designed St. Francis Center - Citywide Banks Charity Contestto help homeless people transition back into society.  It was started in response to the community’s concerns that homeless people had no safe place to go during the day. The overnight shelters closed early in the morning and didn’t reopen until nighttime. Aside from the library, there were few places that protected the homeless against inclement weather.

St. Francis Center first opened its doors as a center offering the most basic  needs such as showers, laundry, storage and a place to get phone messages.  Then, as a way to further help individuals transition out of homelessness, it added an employment office, a health clinic, permanent housing, case management and a psychiatrist.

About 750 people come through their door every day, although Luehrs says they’ve seen their numbers grow in the last five or six months. “Because the majority of people we work with have mental or physical disabilities they are often the last to experience an economic upturn,” he explains.  “They have the least amount of skills, so if they’re competing for a job they wouldn’t be chosen first.”

But, Luehrs is proud that they were able to find full time employment for 112 people last year. And, that they’ve consistently been able to help their clients find homes and work — and their way back to normal lives.

“We know from data that more than half of the people we serve are able to move forward with their life in 45 days or less after using our services,” Luehrs says. “Our success rate is really phenomenal in terms of getting people out of homelessness.”

The reason they’re so successful is that they address the roots of homelessness and help their clients move past them. From their psychiatrist on staff to help with mental health issues to their free health clinic, employment office and housing units, volunteers and staff members help their clients move into jobs and homes, and off the streets.

The case managers in their employment office work with each candidate to strengthen their interview skills and resume writing. St. Francis Center has developed a solid track record of placing qualified employees with a growing number of Denver area companies  – free of charge. “We’ve screened people, done some resume work with them, and checked their citizen status, so employers know what they’re getting,” Luehrs explains.

And because so many people pass through their door on a daily basis, the Center has become a good location for other city social service programs to find the people they can help.

“It’s very important for St. Francis Center to be part of the larger solution, which is why we work so closely with the city of Denver and all the other agencies working with homeless people as well,” says Luehrs. “Coordinating our services is really a way of helping the people we serve … If we know where they can get a shelter overnight or a hot meal, it makes their life so much easier.”

A $5,000 donation would help several individuals get into housing and supply warm clothes for the upcoming winter season. “It would be a first month’s rent for some people and also go toward gloves, hats, and winter wear for this coming winter,” says Luehrs.

For more information about St. Francis Center, and ways to donate your time or money, please visit www.SFCdenver.org.

Vote to Give St. Francis Center a $5,000 Hand-Up
As a Colorado owned, Front Range focused bank, Citywide Banks shares a commitment to our local community with St. Francis Center. Through its Charity Hand-Up Contest, the bank is spotlighting the great work and ongoing needs of local charities Vote in Charity Hand-Up Contestaround metro Denver. Based on the results of a 14-day vote on Facebook, the community will determine how $7,500 is split among seven Colorado charities nominated by Citywide Banks employees. The charity receiving the most votes will receive $5,000 and the runner-up will receive $1,000. The remaining donation amounts will correspond to the voting results for each nominated charity. The voting public can also enter to win 1 of 10 prizes, including dinner for two at a couple of Denver’s top-rated restaurants. Official prize drawing rules are available by clicking here.

How to Cast Your Vote – December 1 -14, 2012
The voting will take place at Facebook.com/citywidebanks. Users will need to make sure they are logged into their personal Facebook account. If a user doesn’t have an account, it only takes minutes to set up a new Facebook account and it’s free. The online voting form will only be accessible for Citywide Banks Facebook Fans. To become a Fan, simply click on the “Like” button on top of any of the pages on Citywide’s Facebook Fan Page at Facebook.com/citywidebanks. Then, click on the link for the ”Charity Contest” tab to access the online voting page. Each Facebook account will be permitted one vote during the 14-day voting period.

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