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New Denver program aims to help match host homes with newly arrived immigrant families

New Denver program aims to help match host homes with newly arrived immigrant families_211
Posted at 6:00 PM, May 02, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-03 10:14:16-04

DENVER — As of Wednesday, May 1, if you live in Denver or 26 other counties in the state, you can dial 211 to sign up to host an immigrant family.

The partnership is between 211 Mile High United Way and Hope Has No Borders.

"Hope Has No Borders is a nonprofit that was formed out of a grassroots movement of community members that became really active in trying to assist migrants back in early November, when there began to be a huge influx of buses dropping people in our city," said Jenifer Kettering, one of the executive directors for the organization.

211 Mile High United Way will facilitate the calls and conduct intake, while Hope Has No Borders will do the match-making between potential hosts and immigrant families.

"We are going to collect information about your lifestyle, about the amount of time you're willing to open up your personal property," Kettering said. "It can be a room in your house, it could be an Airbnb that has some periods of low occupancy and you're willing to open it up for that period of time. It can be for a week, for respite and emergency situations. It could be for three months or a year, however long you want to negotiate."

Kettering added that, at the moment, Hope Has No Borders is trying to build a queue of potential hosts. She said they would ideally like to have 50 host homes before they start matching immigrant families to them.

"...Knowing that you're gonna have case management and financial relief, and a transition plan and a formal agreement," is extremely helpful, Kettering said. "I think that it could be a lot more than that. But that would be our starting goal."

Erin Lennon is the first person in the program to host an immigrant family. Lennon is hosting a Chilean family of four now.

"All I could think about was I have a basement bedroom with an egress window and I have no family staying in there right now. I really need to do this," Lennon said.

She hosted an immigrant family for the first time at the end of 2023 after driving near an encampment and feeling compelled to help those brand new to Denver.

"I wanted to be like the launchpad for them — like, you're in a safe place for right now," she said.

The first family stayed with Erin for seven weeks before getting their own apartment. The second family, the Suarez family, moved in only a couple of weeks ago.

"They're extremely hard workers. They want to succeed. They want to have a chance," Lennon said of the Suarez family.

Barbara Suarez told Denver7 she, her partner, and two children arrived in the United States on April 12 after a more than two-month trip from Chile. She told Denver7 she's very thankful because she never expected this country would open doors like this.

She also expressed how thankful she is to Lennon for opening her home to her family and helping with everything from clothing needs to doctors visits and school drop-offs.

The hope is the Suarez family will stay with Lennon for three months, at the least, though she's open to helping for longer.

"Everything is new. It's a totally different culture. Very different language," Lennon said. "They say 'poco poco,' — 'little by little.' And it is so incredibly true."

Anyone interested in hosting an immigrant family in Denver can dial 211 and ask to help host a family.

After the initial intake call with 211 Mile High United Way, those interested in hosting will be directed to Hope Has No Borders to answer a few more questions.

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