Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. This ancient Chinese proverb seems to be the basis of operation for GrowHaus, a non-profit community farm and educational establishment.
Located in Denver’s Elyria-Swansea neighborhood, GrowHaus is an indoor farm, marketplace and educational center that provides space for families to grow and harvest food year round. Prior to the development of Grow Haus, Elyria-Swansea was considered a food desert, meaning the neighborhood had no close access to healthy, affordable food. GrowHaus’ mission is to provide sustainable agriculture in an urban environment by teaching neighborhood residents about gardening and eating healthy while providing them with healthy, affordable food.
“It’s basically a way to tackle the realization that in our society right now there’s a serious disconnect between people and the food they are using to sustain themselves,” said GrowHaus Director of Operations Adam Brock.
Through weekly tours, family grow plots, do-it-yourself workshops and student outreach programs, the GrowHaus staff hopes to educate and connect the community to one another and the food that they eat.
The Office of Economic Development has helped GrowHaus cultivate their goals by providing Community Development Block Grant funds. These funds will assist GrowHaus with installing a year-round hydroponic system, a soilless water-based growing medium. The OED support is also helping with replacing the roof with energy efficient panels and installing state-of-the-art heaters and coolers.
“It’s the beginning of our relationship. Thus far they have been really supportive of us,” said Brock. “We are really fortunate that Denver’s OED is willing to invest in something that they see the promise in because it is on the cutting edge of urban agriculture technology.”
GrowHaus has big plans for continued growth, which include expanded food production to supply local restaurants, as well as an onsite, full-service market. Currently, five families are growing everything from cilantro to carrots at the nonprofit’s facility, and it aims to have plots for more than 30 families. Grow Haus hopes to complete the community atmosphere with a coffee shop and educational center to host conferences, gatherings and community dinners — a place where people can “eat and learn together.”
Neighborhood Stabilization Program Helps Homebuyers While Spurring Revitalization
Ibrahim Murekatete, his wife and five children left Uganda as refugees, but now have become American homeowners thanks to the efforts of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program.
The NSP is a federally-funded program that allows municipalities to acquire, redevelop, and resell foreclosed and abandoned properties to buyers in need of affordable housing. Targeting neighborhoods that have experienced the greatest incidence of foreclosure, the NSP’s goals are to reduce blight, stabilize neighborhoods, and curb the declining values of neighboring homes. The Denver Office of Economic Development has been awarded more than $31 million in NSP funds, allowing the City to restore several hundred properties back to productive use.
Ibrahim and his family first learned of the NSP through their participation in the Denver Housing Authority’s Homeownership Program. They joined the program in May of 2010, and after being assessed as financially stable by DHA, they were ready to buy their first home in America.
Through the African Community Center, the Murekatetes opened an IDA Savings Plans—a savings plan where they were able to save money and then receive matched funds up to four-to-one. The IDA, administered by the Mile High United Way and funded through OED’s federal Community Development Block Grants, was a vital tool in helping the family get to the spot where they could become homeowners.
To find their first home, the family searched through an inventory of NSP properties on the city’s Take Root Denver website. Take Root Denver is a housing campaign sponsored by Freddie Mac and OED that promotes home ownership and foreclosure prevention. In addition to homeownership counseling resources, links to financial assistance, and foreclosure prevention information, the website promotes homes that have been rehabilitated by OED’s team of home redevelopment agencies.
One of these partner agencies, Del Norte Neighborhood Development Corporation, offered the home chosen by the Murekatete family as their first venture into American home ownership. With assistance from a real estate agent and lender, the Murekatetes underwent the home-buying process.
After being forced to leave their home in Uganda and relocate to the United States, the Murekatete family made owning a home in America a goal. Now, with four bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, a basement, and an attached garage, the Murekatetes have plenty of space to live and build many happy memories in Denver.
A New Source for Recovery
Eating Recovery Center
With a mission to offer healing, hope and recovery for individuals and families fighting eating disorders, Denver’s Eating Recovery Center (ERC) began its treatment program for adults in 2008.
The Eating Recovery Center is the only independent freestanding hospital in the U.S. devoted entirely to the treatment of eating disorders, like anorexia and bulimia. Their location near downtown in Denver’s medical district has been celebrated for its serene, therapeutic environment and its comprehensive, collaborative treatment philosophy. Thanks to the overwhelming positive reception from the community, and due to the shortage of treatment centers focusing solely on adolescent disorders the ERC recently expanded to include another center.
“As soon as we opened our adult treatment center the program filled up, and due to the increasing demand for a program focused on adolescents and children we pursued the second treatment center,” said Andrew Braun, executive director.
Statistics show eating disorders in the adolescent age range are on the rise. Anorexia is the third most common chronic illness among children ages 10-18, and 95% of those with eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25. In order to create a new facility to match the standards of the adult center, the ERC needed to secure additional capital to fund the expansion.
The Denver Office of Economic Development proved to be an ideal financing partner for the expansion project. Financing
supplied by OED’s CDBG-R (American Recovery & Reinvestment Act) funds bridged the “gap” ERC experienced. The OED loan not only provided assistance to children and their families, but the project is on target to create approximately 50 new jobs in the community.
“We were actually exploring workforce development options, and discovered the possibility of financial assistance through the City,” said Braun.
Eating Recovery Center’s Behavioral Hospital for Children and Adolescents opened in the Lowry neighborhood in January 2011, and according to Braun, they are “very much on track with their projections for the year.” Now, with the only independent freestanding hospital devoted entirely to the treatment of children and adolescents with eating disorders, the Eating Recovery Center has grown into a recognized leader for recovery and hope.