In 2003, when then-Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper announced the creation of a planning committee to chart a course aimed at ending homeless in the city in 10 years, he was met with more than a few scoffs. Ending homelessness outright in a city that, according to 2003 studies, had a chronic homeless population of 942--many of whom struggled with drug problems and disabilities--seemed overly ambitious to many.
Undeterred, the Mayor established a panel consisting of homeless individuals, city council members, the business community, nonprofits and neighborhood organizations to address homelessness in Denver.
In 2005, that committee's plan was enacted in the form of Denver's Road Home, a collaborative effort based largely on the premise that the most effective way to assist chronically homeless individuals is to provide housing that will allow them to tackle their other issues in order to gain self-sufficiency.
Since May, 2010, Amber Callender has acted as executive director of Denver's Road Home. Callender, a Denver native who is raising two kids in the Baker neighborhood, says she considers it an honor to serve the community through Denver's Road Home.
"Not everyone has the opportunity to get paid for doing what they love," she told the Huffington Post. Callender came to Denver's Road Home from Mayor Hickenlooper's office, where she served as Deputy Director of Legislative Services and Director of Neighborhood Relations.
In November, Denver's Road Home announced that it was on pace to meet its goal of ending chronic homelessness in Denver by 2015.
That, however, doesn't mean the organization won't face challenges going forward, particularly given the current economy. "We realize how critical it is to make sure this plan continues to remain a living, breathing document," Callender said. She said that the organization has established Resource Allocation and Sustainability committees to ensure the effort stays of financial track.
Denver's Road Home is also focused on redoubling its already impressive fundraising effort. The organization, together with the Mile High United Way, has already raised $46 million since 2005.
But the recession has impacted much more than just fundraising for Denver's Road Home. The fact that more Americans--families in particular--are becoming homeless is not lost on Callender.
"The bottom line is we know there has never been a more important time than now to have a plan to ensure every man, woman and child has an alternative to living life on the streets."
WATCH A DECEMBER SEGMENT FROM PBS's NEWSHOUR ON DENVER'S ROAD HOME: