Tempe homeless outreach specialist lauded for excellence

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Kelly Denman, a homeless outreach specialist with the City of Tempe, has been honored with a statewide award for excellence for her dedication to connecting people in need with housing and services.

Denman, a member of the city’s HOPE team, will receive the Kevin Collins Award for Excellence in Direct Service from the Arizona Housing Coalition. She will be recognized at the organization’s 26th annual statewide conference Oct. 30.

The award honors the life of Collins, who faithfully served men and women in overcoming homelessness and was fatally wounded while working at Central Arizona Shelter Services. Denman is grateful to be recognized by the coalition.

“I feel truly honored, but my greatest honor is seeing someone with a set of keys on their move-in day with tears saying, ‘Thank you’,” Denman said. “That is the greatest feeling of achievement for me.”

The City of Tempe hired Denman as its first homeless outreach specialist in 2016 and she now works with a three-person team that assists hundreds of individuals each year with everything from finding housing to getting replacement ID cards.  The HOPE team is an integral piece of the city’s efforts to end homelessness.

Denman has been instrumental in several initiatives. She established Tempe as the first mobile access point in Maricopa County for the Family Housing Hub, which connects families with housing. She has played a key role helping to develop Tempe Works, the city’s employment and housing program for people experiencing homelessness. Earlier this year, Denman and the HOPE team organized the city’s first-ever outreach event for homeless pets as a way of assisting pets and engaging their owners.

Denman has worked in the behavioral health arena for more than 10 years, and previously worked with a nonprofit organization serving the most chronically homeless in Maricopa County.

“Kelly works tirelessly to house and support the most vulnerable in our community,” said Nichole Stevens, Tempe’s homeless solutions supervisor. “She meets people wherever they are – the river bottom, Mill Avenue, a city park, the library, a court room or even a hospital room – to make connections that can help end their homelessness.”

“This doesn’t happen with one conversation; it takes many conversations over months and sometimes years,” Stevens said. “But Kelly is undaunted by the challenge and is driven to make a difference in as many lives as possible in our community.”

Two recent stories stand out, Stevens said. Through Tempe Works, Denman assisted a veteran who had battled opioid addiction and homelessness with housing and part-time city employment. He now works 40 hours a week, lives in his own apartment and has reconnected with family.

When Denman learned that another client was dying of cancer, she arranged for hospice care so he could die with dignity in his own home, Stevens said.

The HOPE team is one piece of Tempe’s overall strategy to prevent and end homelessness. The city is making steady progress and investing heavily with a coordinated and compassionate response that includes:

·       HOPE team for street-level homeless outreach citywide

·       Collaboration among City of Tempe departments

·       Housing First philosophy to house people without preconditions such as sobriety

·       Innovative jobs and housing program

·       Human services funding to support community nonprofits

·       Collaboration and advocacy

For more information about Tempe’s homeless-related efforts, visit tempe.gov/Endinghomelessness.

Media contact: Susie Steckner, [email protected] or 480-734-5186

 

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