Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Young mother finds help through Project Homeless Connect

When the threads of Amber Marquez’s life came unraveled last year, she was thankful Project Homeless Connect (PHC) was there.

The year 2007 will go down as perhaps as one of the worst and possibly one of the best years of her life.

She went through a divorce, lost her job and lost her apartment all within in a few weeks.

She and her three kids had no place to go. Her children ended up staying with relatives while she struggled to find her bearings. “It was really a bad time, and I was getting to a point where I didn’t know what I was going to do,” she says.

Then she saw a flier for PHC 4, which was held on the DU campus last year for the first time.

PHC is a partnership among the University of Denver, Mile High United Way and Denver’s Road Home — Denver’s 10-year plan to end homelessness — that serves as a one-stop shop for homeless individuals to find employment, housing, health care, legal resources, food and many other vital resources.

Marquez’s father took Amber to PHC. “It was wonderful. They just showed me all these things I needed, child support, housing, food, clothes, furniture — everything I needed to get my life going again,” Marquez says.

She says she filled out an application for housing that “went very fast.” Within three months she was in an apartment big enough that all three children now have their own bedrooms.

“Having a home has really changed everything about my life,” she says. “And it’s changed my kids’ lives, too. It’s awesome where we live and it’s so quiet. A home gives me some stability so I can make sure my kids can get to school and lead a more normal life. Project Homeless Connect helped me so much.”

According to Denver’s Road Home, Denver is home to more 3,900 homeless men, women and children, and the city spends more than $70 million annually on shelter, healthcare and other stopgap services.

For DU to be helping the city with its effort makes perfect sense to Eric Fretz, director of DU’s Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning.

“For me it’s simple. The school has a mission to share its resources with the community, and that’s exactly what this is all about,” Fretz says. “If DU can help people become citizens in democracy so that they can then make communities stronger, then the school is fulfilling its mission.”

Marquez can vouch for that. Today, she’s getting her GED and the city’s department of social services has a job waiting for her when she does.

“My life is so much better now,” she says.

The University of Denver will host PHC 6 on May 9 from 9 a.m.–3 p.m. in the Ritchie Center.

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