According to Webster’s Dictionary to “empower” is to “to give power to (someone): to give official authority or legal power to (someone)”. That is exactly what The Empowerment Program in Denver, Colorado tries to do; to give power back to women who have lost it through abuse, drugs, prostitution, homelessness and any number of circumstances that have beat them into the ground.
The Empowerment Program’s Mission statement is thus:
The Mission of the Empowerment Program is to provide education, employment assistance, health, housing referrals and support services to women who are in disadvantaged positions due to incarceration, poverty, homelessness, HIV/AIDS infection or involvement in the criminal justice system. Our goal is to decrease rates of recidivism by providing care management, support services, basic skills education, housing and resource coordination that can offer viable alternatives to habits and choices that may lead to criminal behaviors.
I have a personal connection to this agency. Back in 1997, I did my social work internship here. Frankly, I must admit that I was pretty nervous and scared. You see I grew up in a “lily-white” suburb of Denver. We had very few minorities in my school. My sister lost a babysitting job (this was the 1970’s mind you) because she invited one of the few African American boys to come over and visit. They sat in the front yard and talked. That was all it took. East Colfax Avenue was someplace that you avoided, and here twenty years later I was to go work on East Colfax helping those who desperately needed someone to care. Not only did I have to work on East Colfax, but I had to co-facilitate a group of women in the Denver County Jail. Needless to say, it was always a good feeling being able to walk out from behind those bars after an hour; however, I was all too aware that the women I was trying to help were still there. I was thrown into a whole other world and came out the better for it.
Carol Lease’s program has grown since I was there in 1997. She began the program in 1986 in response to a growing need of services for disadvantaged women in Denver. She is still trying to address issues such as homelessness, substance abuse, incarceration and HIV/AIDS to name a few. Many of the clients struggle with these issues on a day-to-day basis. While The Empowerment Program tries to change people’s situations for the better, they also specifically work with the client at whatever point she is in her life. Additionally, they go to where their clients are, whether that is outreach on the streets or in the county jail. One of the greatest strengths of this agency is that, when they see a need in the community, they try to address it. An example of one of those needs was to start providing anonymous HIV testing when the only community-based testing center closed in 1999. This is the sort of thing that makes Empowerment what it is.
The staff does not try to come in and play big brother but instead offer a range of services to start building from the ground up. They truly are a place that offers a non-judgmental environment to help those in need.
“It is an unnecessary burden to make negative judgmental assumptions about others. We are all on a journey.” ~ Steve Maraboli
If you feel that this organization is worthwhile you can donate to them at: