By Katalin Wishart, Senior Grantwriter
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think “affordable housing”? For 7-year-old Natasha, it means living in a supportive environment where she receives one-on-one and small-group help with her homework. For her younger sister, it means access to preschool, and for their mom, it means academic and social support for her children and other free family activities.
Meeting new clients is always fun, but my recent meeting with Erika and Allison from RMC was also energizing! Their enthusiasm for RMC is contagious, and their approach to affordable housing is incredibly compassionate. What makes Rocky Mountain Communities unique is its passion for creating a better life for its residents.
As anyone in Denver knows, affordable housing is in short supply, with rent averaging $1,350 for two-bedroom apartments in 2017. RMC recognized the need and has been taking it on since 1992. All RMC households earn less than 133% of the Federal Poverty Level—residents’ average household income is $23,454—which makes it hard to pay rent. RMC offers rental rates 30-60 percent below local market values to ease the burden for hard-working families. In 2017, RMC served 2,559 residents.
Breaking the Cycle of Poverty
One thing I found extremely thoughtful about RMC is that it hires program staff and volunteers who have backgrounds in social work. They work closely with families and children to identify their strengths and assets, because RMC is invested in its residents’ success—understanding that success has a different meaning for each resident. For some residents, success is managing their finances so they can pay rent each month. For others, success means eventually buying their own home.
RMC knows that affordable housing is critical to breaking the cycle of poverty for families in Denver. In fact, affordable housing keeps many of RMC’s residents from homelessness. But RMC doesn’t believe its job stops there. In order to provide a supportive community environment for its residents, RMC offers programs and services for residents to encourage community involvement.
“This is unlike any other apartment. We love the youth programs,
there’s always something fun going on,
and we feel like part of a community.” – RMC resident
RMC’s resident services focus on children, seniors and community building. It also has a food pantry at two of its locations. All of these programs are resident-driven, meaning they vary depending on the property and the needs of those particular residents.
RMC puts a lot of energy into its youth resident services. The program began in 2012 when children living at RMC’s Garden Court location started making a habit of coming to the community room after school. The children would request a snack and ask for homework help from staff members. Over the past four years, RMC formalized the program. Instead of a casual, drop-in structure, it now has a more formal enrollment format with specific goals and objectives. Last year, 84 percent of participants improved reading skills throughout the summer program and 100 percent improved math skills.
Since it started, the youth resident program has grown significantly through increased special programs, enrichment activities, and collaborating partners. Now RMC’s youth programs include both afterschool and summer enrichment programs.
Programs such as these are integral to RMC’s mission of helping its residents succeed in life. Not only is this program great for the children’s social, emotional and academic development, it is also essential for their parents. Afterschool and summer childcare are often necessary for working parents, but rarely affordable. By caring for these children after school and over the summer, RMC is relieving an enormous financial burden for working parents and giving them a greater likelihood of becoming financially independent.
As a grantwriter, I love working with nonprofits that really understand how to address the needs of the people they serve. Their passion sparks my desire to help their clients, and we really become a team!