Aurora offers Bridge House Ready to Work program $575K grant from pot taxes for homeless project

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    AURORA | Bridge House’s Ready To Work program for people experiencing homelessness in Aurora is another step closer to reality. The city approved a $575,000 one-time grant to the Boulder-based organization where the program also operates. 

    Aurora City Council said Monday night during a study session that they will grant the funds, as there’s enough money from additional sales tax revenue on retail marijuana to cover the cost. With the allocation, there’s still $2.9 million left in the pot for additional projects related to homelessness in Aurora in 2018.

    Bridge House, which calls itself a “work-first program” because of its workforce training focus, has raised the majority of money needed to get the project off the ground, according to Isabel McDevitt, the executive director of Bridge House. A total of $3.7 million is needed to purchase, renovate and open the project, which has found a home at 3176 S. Peoria Court.

    Earlier this year council members decided to rezone the vacant office space as a congregate living facility — a win for Bridge House. They were originally looking at a defunct bingo hall on East Colfax Avenue. But neighborhood backlash, because Ready To Work allows people experiencing homelessness with a criminal history to participate, squashed the project at that location.

    The goal of the program is to provide participants with a place to stay for a year while they build up skills and work experience, then the participants are expected to return to the workforce full time and, even more, they’re able to live a life off the streets.

    While the chunk of funding Bridge House is seeking from council is significant, McDevitt said the city and council’s support may be even more important.

    “We want to know the city staff and council are buying into the solution we’re bringing to Aurora for the benefit of Aurora,” she said.

    Without the support of Aurora lawmakers and city officials, McDevitt told the Aurora Sentinel “it would be concerning to some donors that are already invested.” So far, a diverse group of investors, from philanthropic foundations and tax credits, have gotten behind the project.

    Bridge House expects to serve 50 individuals —unaccompanied adults — per year at the South Peoria Court location. The program has about a 75 percent graduation rate, McDevitt told city council Monday night.

    In Boulder, the Ready To Work program has room for up to 44 participants, which are expected to work 29 hours per week, remain sober, refrain from drug use and take part in counseling. The expectations for participants would be the same in Aurora.

    McDevitt said there is a possibility the Aurora program could grow to include even more participants, because there is enough room in the building.

    With funding now secured, McDevitt said she expects the program to be operating by early 2019.