Hope, Community and Work for Denver’s Homeless at Earthlinks

Just south of Broncos Stadium in Denver there is an oasis. On a cool fall morning, the sun slides up over industrial lots, power plants, and train tracks, and finally illuminates the corner of 13th and Decatur St.  Sunflowers turn their heads to catch the rays, bees begin buzzing in the flowers, and the fragrance of basil, mint, and ripe tomatoes fills the crisp air. People begin to arrive, finding their way from the bustle and concrete of the city to the lush, green, bountiful gardens.

This urban oasis is EarthLinks. Founded 20 years ago by two Catholic nuns, EarthLinks is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to cultivate transformation and self-worth with people experiencing homelessness and poverty. By creating opportunities through Earth-centered programs, individuals step out of isolation and into community – restoring each other and the planet.

The people who come to EarthLinks to work and heal come from all backgrounds and all life circumstances, but everyone has one thing in common – all participants have, or currently are, experiencing homelessness. There are a variety of things that have contributed to the cycle of poverty which plague the participants. Many have histories of physical illness and disabilities, trauma and mental health issues, poor education, and unemployment. For many, a single event like losing a job or a sudden health crisis was the difference between having housing or not. All are working hard to improve their lives, and EarthLinks provides a sustaining and stabilizing community.

In addition to community, EarthLinks’ Workshop provides meaningful work that feeds the souls of participants, giving purpose and self-sufficiency. Individuals work in the garden, harvesting produce, herbs, and flowers which are then made into earth-friendly body products including home-made soap, lip balm, and lotion. Participants also tend to bee hives, gathering honey and beeswax. Other products include beautiful jewelry made from repurposed materials, cards, bookmarks and candles made with pressed flowers, and special holiday gifts.

Each item is hand-made with care and creativity, and each product helps to build a new life for the maker. EarthLinks goes beyond providing basic food-and-shelter needs for people who live on the margins of society, addressing all human needs. EarthLinks fills the need for creativity, belonging, interfacing with nature, beauty, and self-worth. These experiences and the social services support offered, result in a 70% housing success rate for participants.

Products created in Workshop are marketed at various farmers markets, church and alternative gift fairs, online, and through EarthLinks’ in-house retail store. For a list of upcoming sales events, check the EarthLinks website: earthlinks-colorado.org, or stop in at 2746 W 13th Ave to see their beautiful gardens and purchase produce, body care products, and unique gifts. Don’t miss the holiday open house coming up soon on December 9th-10th – it is the perfect place to buy gifts with a triple bottom line – good for the maker, good for the consumer and good for Earth!