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Downtown Denver safety ambassadors in yellow vests offer help on the streets

“We love working with our city and bringing people together for the common good, to do good,” said the nonprofit Denver Dream Center.
Denver downtown safety partnership yellow vest Ambassadors
Posted at 5:33 PM, Jan 16, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-16 20:23:19-05

DENVER — On the streets of downtown Denver, ambassadors wearing yellow vests are the most visible part of Mayor Mike Johnston’s new safety partnership announced last week.

Johnston hopes to keep downtown safer and cleaner by increasing collaborations between the government, businesses and nonprofits.

At the nonprofit Denver Dream Center, the safety partnership is giving a boost to their long-running services.

“We love working with our city and bringing people together for the common good, to do good,” said Bryan “Pastor B” Sederwall, who runs the Denver Dream Center.

Pastor B’s motto is “see a need, meet a need.” And the needs in downtown Denver keep growing.

“Over the last couple of years, as the encampments have grown, fentanyl and the opioid crisis has exploded — we found that downtown has a greater need than ever before, not just for housing, but for resources and relationships,” he said.

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That’s why the Dream Center hires people who were formerly incarcerated or living on the streets to help others going through similar struggles.

Mike Johnson heard about the Dream Center while he was still incarcerated.

“I knew when I was in there, I just wanted to turn my life around,” he said.

Working with the center for the last year, Johnson said it’s allowed him to go back to the same streets with a new goal.

“It's all about relationships, building relationships,” Johnson said.

He leads the Dream Center’s Street Team, which walks downtown Denver’s streets every day. When cold weather sets in, they offer hot coffee, warm coats and help connecting with services.

Mike Johnson Denver Dream Center
Mike Johnson from the Denver Dream Center offers resources to people on the downtown Denver streets. A hot cup of coffee can lead to conversations about services like shelters and drug addiction help.

Pastor B said the center also offers “a wraparound service approach.” They build trust over time and identify an individual’s needs.

"It might be mental health, it could be addiction that they're walking through, it could be isolation, or just something bad happened, they found themself in a situation that they never thought they would be,” he said.

Because the Dream Center was already engaging on the streets, Pastor B said it was a “natural transition” to start working with the city “to create safer, cleaner and honestly, more fun downtown neighborhoods.”

"We're fanatics for collaboration,” Pastor B said.

With so many players working to make Denver safer, he said it’s easy for each group to become siloed apart from the others.

“We sometimes trip over each other trying to accomplish the same goal,” he said.

He hopes the downtown Denver safety partnership will make better use of resources and help more people by bringing all of these players together.

Denver Dream Center
Staff from the Denver Dream Center wear yellow vests as part of the new downtown safety partnership. Their nonprofit operates from a building at Broadway and Curtis that used to be a car repair shop.

In part, that will mean that the Dream Center’s staff will wear the recognizable yellow vests while out connecting with people on the streets. They’ll also respond to reports of safety and cleanliness issues, including those submitted on the new Clean and Safe Denver app available for Apple and Android devices.

"Whether it's the 311 hotline or it’s the Clean and Safe Denver app, it'll go right to our guys,” he said.

The Dream Center and other partners will receive the reports and deploy staff as needed. For example, last week, the Dream Center received a report through the app about a person inside a local business having a mental breakdown.

"Some of our guys were able to receive the call from the app, go down and engage somebody that was here from New York that was struggling,” he said. Ultimately, his crew was able to “remove them from a tense situation and get them into the right resource.”

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Johnson, who now walks the streets as a yellow-vested ambassador, said he’s excited to partner with the city and other organizations to expand their efforts.

“We're already out here every day, loving on people,” Johnson said. “They know who we are... we have a little more credibility, and they tend to listen to us and confide into us a little bit more.”

They call themselves “hope dealers” because “we want to spread a bit of hope in the street,” he said.

“It's not about telling them where they can and can't be,” he said. “It's about seeing them and meeting them where they're at.”

Downtown Denver safety ambassadors in yellow vests offer help on the streets

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