From Unhoused to Employee of the Month

Joseph is pictured above with his plaque for Employee of the Month. Last name has been redacted to protect privacy.

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Two years ago, Joseph got out of prison. He arrived back in Denver and quickly found himself unhoused.

 “I came from the streets. I lived on the streets, so this wasn’t new to me and I braced myself for more hard times,” commented Joseph.

He was using the facilities at a local shelter to take a shower when an employee suggested that Joseph enter a new lottery for housing. As someone who had cycled in and out of jail, detox centers and emergency care, Joseph was eligible to be part of the Denver Supportive Housing Social Impact Bond Initiative (Denver SIB).  

Finding refuge

Months later, Joseph found out he had secured a spot in WellPower’s Sanderson Apartments.

In partnership with the City of Denver and using funds from the Social Impact Bond, WellPower built Sanderson Apartments. This permanent supportive housing community was designed using the principles of trauma-informed care and services, providing support to some of our most vulnerable populations.

While Joseph waited to move into Sanderson, he completed the 45-day RISE (Recovery in a Secure Environment) program in the Denver County jail. Upon being admitted, it took a week for him to stabilize off drugs and alcohol.

“I told my cell mate that I needed to stop drinking and doing drugs, but he didn’t believe me. No one believed me but I wasn’t doing it for them, I was doing it for me,” said Joseph.

From the RISE program he was then court ordered into a drug diversion program. The judge was always happy with him – he had consistent, clean urinalysis (urine tests for substances, also called UAs), attended therapy and was always on time with his probation officer.

“I told the judge that I didn’t think I was doing anything special. I was just sick and tired of going in and out of jail, in and out of detox and being on the streets and never having anything. I wanted to end my life at one point,” remarked Joseph.

“Sanderson Apartments is responsible for me not getting into trouble anymore. It makes me a better person. I was like an animal out on the street. Now I have a place to come home to and feel safe, shower and be clean and it really matters.” 

Joseph was in the drug diversion program when the pandemic initially hit, resulting in most of his program being held on zoom. He was grateful to have a room where he knew he could always join his meetings.  

Joseph outside Sanderson Apartments

A renewed life

One of the moments that Joseph is most proud of is graduating from the drug diversion program. “I’m proud of staying sober. They know I am stable. And I know I am, too,” he said.

Joseph went in search of a job after graduating from the drug diversion program. He said he was turned away from several places because of his felony record, even though they were not violent offenses. Eventually he was able was hired at Elitch Gardens Theme Park; the individual that hired him was impressed by his honesty and resilience.

Joseph has been an employee at Elitches for two seasons and just received an award for employee of the month. He credits the stable housing provided by the Sanderson Apartments for his success.

“My job requires me to be clean and look nice, I don’t know what I would do without it,” said Joseph. “This place has impacted me in every way possible. I have to feel safe. I have to sleep. When I was homeless, I couldn’t figure out where to lay down. I used to try and hide.”

Everything in Joseph’s life has changed as a result of securing stable housing. “I am being responsible. I set up a payment plan for my restitution for property damage and I am holding down a job – one that I look forward to going to. I can’t give this place enough credit. Everybody needs a place to stay. I was picked to be here, and I don’t take it for granted.”