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One-stop-shop resource center opens across the street from Denver jail, courts

People can walk to different desks at the AID Center to get connected with a variety of community partners.

DENVER — The location of the new Assessment, Intake and Diversion (AID) Center in Denver is strategic: right across the street from the courts and jail. 

Denver wants to make it easy for people to get help. That's why they opened the one-stop-shop for resources like housing, employment, substance misuse support and veteran support services.

"What we want to envision is a giant slip-n-slide from the courthouse to this door," said Carlon Manuel, the director of the AID Center. 

They didn't want to send people across the city for different resources. Instead, people can walk to different desks at the AID Center to get connected with a variety of community partners.

Someone can walk in for help, or police can take them here instead of taking them to jail. This would be an alternative to an arrest for low-level charges like trespassing or shoplifting. Other eligible offenses include public fighting, prostitution and disturbing the peace.

Denver Department of Public Safety hopes finding the reason behind someone's offense will keep that person out of the criminal justice system, and slowly reduce crime over time. 

"Most of the crimes we are looking at, we are looking at a crime of need," Manuel said. "If we can take that one trespassing charge away and we can put that person and get them stabilized, get them back to where they need to be, absolutely let's do it."

Since starting a pilot program in November, the AID Center has served more than 100 people. Manuel said around 80% have needed help with housing. 

"Some cases living on our streets. Some cases people recently released. In some cases, folks that are couch surfing," he said. 

CommunityWorks is a community partner at the AID Center that focuses on employment. They serve five demographics: justice-involved, below poverty, aging workforce, veterans and at-risk youth. 

"They are often disadvantaged because of whatever the case may be – maybe something on their record, maybe they are unhoused and in a shelter at the moment or in a sober living home," said Clay McCombe, site director for CommunityWorks in Denver. "They often don’t have the advantage in the competitive marketplace, so with our training and our private job hiring event - we would like to give them the hiring advantage. 'Hey, these events are not for the public. These are for you. For once, you have the upper hand.'"

No matter the reason, he hopes a centralized location for resources makes it easier to get someone the help they need. 

"We are working with people we know have some challenges, and we want to abate some of those challenges that they are having," he said. 

Outreach teams, like STAR, and other first responders can also refer someone to the AID Center. Manuel said a man came in recently after a bailiff in his courtroom told him about it. The man also brought his brother. 

The AID Center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. It's located at 1370 Elati Street.


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