DENVER – As the number of Denver residents experiencing homelessness for the first time continues to rise, the Community Outreach Service Center announced it's helping launch a new initiative called The BASIC Project to address community needs in a more personal and direct way.
“The BASIC Project in simplest terms is Bridging Accountable, Safe, Inclusive Communities.' It's really listening to people on the issues and gathering what's happening in the community,” the BASIC Project Coordinator, Gerald Hamel, told Denver7 Thursday.
Hamel said personal outreach is at the center of the project.
He said he’s talked to researchers all over the country about “best practices” for addressing the needs of underserved communities and the answer is simple.
“It's getting out and listening to people, not coming with an agenda,” Hamel said. "I'm talking with people from Yale, from USC, from Connecticut. They’re asking what normal data collection tells us about these best practices. When you see the policy, when you see it implemented, it comes from researchers.”
But Hamel said that means often, policies are created in a bubble without input from those most impacted.
Raymond Johnson, a peer navigator for the Community Outreach Service Center who is also helping with The BASIC Project launch, hasn’t lived on the streets but he spent 26 years in prison and was recently released.
“I was once considered an invisible person, I was forgotten,” Johnson said.
Johnson said community outreach helped him transition into his new life.
“Working out here and working in prison is different. It hasn’t been easy,” Johnson said.
Now Johnson is hoping to be a liaison between those who also feel invisible and those creating policies.
“It starts by going to meet your neighbor, finding out who they are so they know help is out there,” Johnson said.
“There is plenty of housing,” Hamel said.
But Hamel said a lot of resources, like housing, are immediately rejected.
“There’s no relationship and they can't trust the person offering the housing,” Hamel said.
Hamel said The BASIC Projects plans to build that trust by simply getting know who lives nearby and asking about their needs.