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New Life aims to help needy people in Denver find a life free of substance abuse, homelessness

These days, John Ware is an intake chaplain with the Denver Rescue Mission’s New Life Rehabilitation Program, helping people free their lives from substance abuse and other dangerous situations. He’s good at what he does — really good — because almost 17 years ago, he was the one seeking help, looking for a way to get his life back on track.

“I got tired of being sick and tired,” Ware said, describing what drew him to the program. It was 2001, he was homeless, his relationships with friends and family were crumbling, and he didn’t know how to turn his life around.

But with a roof over his head and a lot of support from rescue mission staff members and volunteers, Ware graduated from the program in January 2003. He spent about a year as a commercial truck driver, then found himself back at the New Life Program in 2004 — this time, to help others.

“I always wanted to help people,” Ware said. “It’s an excellent feeling — (seeing) people who are broken give their lives to Christ.”

The Denver Rescue Mission, a recipient of this year’s Denver Post Season to Share campaign, is a faith-based nonprofit dedicated to helping individuals facing homelessness and addiction by providing services, including emergency assistance, rehabilitation, transitional programs and community outreach.

The New Life program, one of the rescue’s free rehabilitation services, fosters a “community-oriented environment” in which participants can gain the skills and self-esteem needed to become self-sufficient. Through case management, Christian counseling, life-skills classes and work therapy, the program aims to help individuals overcome destructive habits, get a job and maintain sustainable housing.

The program takes about 18 months to complete. More than 80 participants are housed at any given time in three locations — The Crossing and Champa House in Denver and Harvest Farm in Wellington — with newcomers settling in as graduates filter out.

The program helps people earn their GEDs, go back to school, get their commercial driver’s licenses, practice job readiness and more — under one condition: They must adhere to a zero-tolerance drug policy.

“It’s a pretty big decision for (the participants). This is how we can help, but also, are you willing and able and ready?” said Stacy Parker, public-relations coordinator with Denver Rescue Mission. “We do see dropouts. We do see relapses. It’s just the reality. Rehab is a continual choice that someone is making. That addiction is always going to be there. It’s just making the right choice for their life.”

Evertt Hurtado joined New Life in July after he was released from prison with nowhere to go. He already senses a change in his life.

“In areas where I didn’t think I was going to look at myself, I’m starting to look at myself to be able to make a difference in the person I am,” he said. “When I first came here, I pretty much thought I had it all figured out, but getting involved in everything they have going on here has given me a different perspective.”

Hurtado has already suggested the program to other people. He hopes to get his commercial driver’s license and pursue a career as a truck driver.

The program aims for graduates to leave with a steady job, sustainable housing and the confidence to maintain a sober lifestyle. Each graduate receives a donated car, because New Life leaders believe that eliminating stresses related to a lack of transportation will help graduates hold down jobs and advance at school.

“At the end, we hope they’ve left with more tools in their toolbox for success,” Parker said. “When they leave, they can see a sense of hope that they didn’t see before.”

In 2016, 636 people participated in New Life.

“We know through Christ there is always the redemptive possibility through faith,” Parker said. “There is no one thing or reason that someone’s heart can’t be changed, or their life can’t be changed entirely. The most important thing is just accepting everyone who comes to us.”

For more information about New Life, visit denverrescuemission.org

Name of program: New Life Rehabilitation Program, part of Denver Rescue Mission
Address: 1130 Park Ave. West, Denver
Year is started: 1989 (Denver Rescue Mission, 1892)
Number of employees: 25 employees (DRM, 200)
Annual budget: $8,172,667 (DRM, $34 million)
Percentage of funds that goes directly to client services: About 43 percent (DRM, more than 80 percent)
Number served last year: 636 (DRM, nearly 15,000)

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