Facing Homelessness: Denver
By Carin R. Kirkegaard, courtesy photo
Homelessness is a prevalent, growing and evolving issue. For those individuals experiencing life on the street, there may be a stigma of prejudice and ridicule that creates isolation and vulnerability. Facing Homelessness: Denver (FHD), a Douglas County-based nonprofit, is working to end homelessness by inviting the community to be part of the solution. In doing so, FHD is helping to erase that stigma.
Amber Dinh, founder of the Denver chapter of Facing Homelessness believes that humanizing the homeless is the key to making a difference. Her motto is, “Just Say Hello” and she believes it is important to meet the person in need where they are – at any particular point in their life. Dinh aligns this philosophy with principles illustrated by Rex Hohlbein, the founder of Facing Homelessness in Seattle, Washington, the template for the growing movement across the country.
By just saying hello, Dinh is able to help fill the gap and provide help to the individual, whether that is holding a hand and listening, getting a car out of an impound lot, purchasing a sleeping bag or providing a meal. The goal is “seeing the human and customizing the help to the individual no matter how small or big the need is,” said Dinh. She sees FHD as the link between those in need and those that can provide help.
While the organization serves the greater Denver metro area, the heart is in Douglas County. Dinh works primarily through FHD’s Facebook page to reach out to her followers when a need arises. She will be the first to credit the success of filling the variety of needs to the men and women of Douglas County and many Douglas County businesses. “They are the heroes,” she said.
Dinh’s daughter, Taylor, was diagnosed with cancer at age 2, and Dinh’s husband left the family. Dinh sold everything and spent her time living in hospitals, sleeping on lumpy cots while her daughter fought for her life. Once it became apparent that Taylor was going to make it, Dinh realized she was homeless.
Dinh’s father ran a homeless shelter, and when those living in the shelter heard of Dinh’s plight, they went out and panhandled to raise money. Dinh said, “It was that crate of change that paid my first and last month’s rent on my apartment.” From that moment on, Dinh says that she has paid it forward.
This year, FHD has fed 8,000 people out of the back of Dinh’s truck. In May, the organization launched its 1/5,000 campaign. The intent is to have 5,000 individuals, families and businesses each donate $100 to help fund FHD operations. To learn more about FHD, the campaign or to contribute, visit www.facinghomelessnessdenver.com.
“I know that there are no simple answers or fixes to the homeless crisis, but I do know that a community of people in any city across the world can make a local impact on people living outside,” stated Dinh.