Mi Casa helps Denver’s most vulnerable residents start careers and small businesses
Denver residents Claudia Hernandez and Ignacio Rosas face rising costs as their four children reach their teens and plan to go to college, which seems financially impossible.
But they have a plan to move their families forward.
They decided to start their own business. After moving from Mexico a few decades ago, Rosas settled into a job, earning $ 20 an hour, fixing heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems – and now thinks he could run his own. business. Hernandez envisions a cleaning company, working solo first, then hiring others.
They turned to the Mi Casa Resource Center in Denver for advice. One recent morning at Mi Casa headquarters at 345 S. Grove St. in southwest Denver, Hernandez and Rosas were sitting at a table presenting their plan to a business advisor.
Mi Casa serves approximately 1,800 low-income residents each year, providing training and expertise for starting careers and small businesses. Typical clients earn less than $ 20,000 per year before seeking help and include mostly Latinas, although Mi Casa also serves others, including migrants from Africa. For 45 years, Mi Casa has helped Denver’s most vulnerable subway residents find âpathsâ to success. It is one of the programs supported by the Denver Post Community Foundation’s Season to Share program.
âWe don’t want to just put people in minimum wage jobs,â said chief executive Angeles Ortega. âWe want to place people in careers where they can create intergenerational wealth. “
The idea is to enable home ownership and create stability so that children can go their own way. It’s an uphill battle, Ortega said, pointing to demographics showing widening wealth gaps in the United States.
Large companies and highly funded tech startups seem to easily attract funding. Still, small local businesses, typically run by women who manage spending with their personal credit cards, play a key role in neighborhoods, Ortega said. “And they usually don’t get any venture capital investment at all.”
Beyond vocational and business training, Mi Casa’s head office, built in 2017, also contains a 42-unit complex called Terraza Del Sol with rents as low as $ 506 per month – depending on family income and size. of the family. The place has a patio, fitness equipment and a kitchen.
Mi Casa’s social workers offer several one-off consultations. They also answer customer calls as they embark on their journey. For example, bilingual business advisor Javier Martinez recently provided crisis support to an 82-year-old woman who had run a hair salon since 1964 and needed quick advice. It had been closed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last year and was now in arrears with rent. She was facing demands and her only income was monthly Social Security payments of $ 534. Her husband was deceased and she wanted to sell the business and avoid declaring bankruptcy.
Distress like this has become common during the pandemic, Martinez said. “It seems a lot of people are in a frenzy, dealing with stressful situations.”
The obstacles encountered as clients work to shape their futures can seem overwhelming. The Mi Casa team helps break down obstacles into manageable solutions.
âWe can’t afford to pay for their college now,â Hernandez told business advisor Mark Wideman, who previously ran a real estate business in Arizona, of the couple’s four children.
Rosas said he hopes to earn at least $ 1,000 more each month by starting his own business. Wideman listened, said it sounded reasonable, and took notes. He told the couple that he would try to guide them step by step.
Two of their children recently graduated from high school. Two more will do so in the coming years.
Wideman asked if they were aware of the financial aid. Depending on family income, their high school graduates might be eligible. This came as news, and Hernandez immediately wanted to learn more from university officials. “How can I connect with them? “
Name of the organization: Mi Casa Resource Center
Address: 345 S. Grove Street, Denver 80219
Number of employees: 32
Annual budget: $ 3.7 million