The block that houses Samaritan House in downtown Denver is always humming with activity. From morning until night, volunteers hustle upstairs to help the Catholic Charities team serve meals; generous donors swing by the warehouse to drop off donations and our experienced staff work directly with families, single women and veterans to find the resources they need to secure permanent work and housing.
The block is busier than ever these days with newly arrived migrants coming to Denver. Some stay only a few hours before they head to their final destination, while others start making plans to connect with family members who already call Colorado home. Some of the lucky ones have been able to find temporary shelter at Samaritan House, while others are still working with the City of Denver and other agencies to find a place to live. But, as they work out those details, Samaritan House, thanks to the generosity of the community, has found critical ways to help.
Lines form early seven days a week and are filled with families, women and men who deeply appreciate receiving sack lunches, clean clothes, coats, blankets and other necessities that our Samaritan House warehouse team passes out to them with a smile and word of comfort.
Much can be said – and has been said – about the situation happening at the southern border, and almost everyone has strong opinions about it. But at the heart of the political challenges are confused and scared people who are thousands of miles from home, are cold and hungry and welcome any bit of support they can find.
For many, that support comes in the form of our Samaritan House warehouse team, who are spending their days sorting donated material necessities, making sandwiches and filling brown bags that are handed out to every person who is hungry. Watching the recipients, many of whom are small children, sit down on the curb and scarf down the sack’s contents is both heart-warming and heart-breaking.
As we did when the migrants first began arriving in our state in earnest in November 2022, the entire Catholic Charities team has leaned into our mission to extend the healing ministry of Jesus Christ to the poor and those in need. Responding to the demand for additional family shelter last year, our team jumped into action, converting available space including conference rooms and offices into additional family rooms. Now, instead of housing 25 families at a time, Samaritan House is sheltering, feeding and supporting more than 35 families each night.
Most recently, when the summer surge started to hit Denver, our Catholic Charities food and warehouse teams jumped into action again and stepped up the creation of more sack lunches than ever before. In October alone, volunteers and employees made and distributed more than 3,000 sack lunches to people who knocked on the door. That is in addition to the more than 500,000 meals we cook each year for neighbors across the Samaritan House community and Catholic Charities early childhood education programs.
The food is always a combination of donated and purchased items, making robust healthy meals. On a sunny Monday early in November, families and groups of men and women stood in line, waiting for their turn in the warehouse to pick up warm weather items, including sweaters, coats and blankets to prepare for cold nights ahead. Each received one of the sack lunches that had been thoughtfully made by our kitchen team and volunteers and most sat down immediately on the curb to devour the hearty roast beef sandwiches, chips, applesauce and protein bars.
Every single person who received a meal thanked the team and expressed profound gratitude.
One of the amazing women who helps run the Samaritan House warehouse told the story of a young family who had been through the warehouse earlier in the day with their baby girl, who appeared less than two months old. They had timed out of the Denver migrant sheltering program and were uncertain about where they would spend the night. They had concerns about the baby’s health and our team worked diligently to find as many warm clothes and blankets as possible for the family. But, as she told the story, her eyes weld up with tears, knowing that the family’s future was uncertain and difficult.
Over the past few weeks, when a call for volunteers and additional donations went out from the Archdiocese of Denver and Catholic Charities, the Colorado community stepped up. The Knights of Columbus delivered coats, parishes organized non-perishable food drives and families and individuals cleaned their closets and made the trek into downtown Denver to drop off donated items. Those donations have proven lifesaving.
Once again, we are asking for your help. Colorado has been blessed with a warm fall, but, as the newly arrived are about to find out, Colorado winters are cold. If you can help with additional materials or financial donations, everyone involved in our Catholic Charities ministry would be incredibly grateful. If you have time and capacity, please join us at Samaritan House or any Catholic Charities ministry as a volunteer.
As Bishop Rodriguez said when he blessed a renovation of Samaritan House two years ago, “Every day, Jesus walks through the doors of Samaritan House.” Your time, treasure and talent are needed now more than ever, and you can make a big difference in the lives of those we serve.
Donations of material items are always needed and appreciated. If you have any of the following items and would like to donate them to Catholic Charities to use in our ministries, you may do so at Samaritan House, 2301 Lawrence St. in Denver, between 9 a.m. — 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. — 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. We are in need of new or gently used clothing for men, women and children; non-perishable food; new undergarments still in the packaging and personal hygiene items. To learn more about material or financial donations to Catholic Charities, please visit ccdenver.org.
Volunteers are the lifeblood of Catholic Charities and we couldn’t serve without them. Same-day opportunities are available. Click here to volunteer. Thank you!