Jan and St. Francis Center

Diocese of Colorado
September 30, 2014
By: 
Christopher Sikkema

Two years ago, Jan led a comfortable and prosperous life in her small Colorado community. In her early 60s, she found herself running a successful business, owning a house and genuinely enjoying life. She was independent, quick and hard-working. When she was diagnosed with cancer, however, her situation began to change.

Despite working long hours and late nights, Jan was unable to stay atop the ever-increasing medical bills and harsh treatments. Something had to give, and it was her work. In seemingly no time at all, she lost both her home and her business, forcing her into a decision she had not anticipated: ask for help, or live on the street.

Thankfully, St. Francis Center, a Jubilee Ministry in Denver, interceded. After checking in, Jan found a place of safety and protection for those who, like her, were vulnerable and in difficult situations. With a highly committed staff that understood the needs of Jan and other guests, the center was able to set her up in a church housing program, eliminating her immediate need of shelter. They helped her to navigate the complex forms and requirements for claiming disability insurance, owed her since her cancer diagnosis.

Despite the fact that Denver has low housing stock and thus, perennially high prices, Jan and the staff of St. Francis Center worked to overcome any obstacle that stood in their way. Two weeks ago, Jan moved into an apartment of her own. Her cancer is also now in remission.

St. Francis Center provides numerous other services, including coordination with overnight shelters, a health clinic staffed by area doctors, mental and physical health services, street outreach by the request of the downtown Denver business community, on-site social services, and direct housing. Founded by the Diocese of Colorado, they see their mission as continuing the Gospel mission to serve the least of these in their region—a mission that has helped to build them up as one of the largest and most comprehensive organizations serving the homeless between Chicago and Los Angeles.

What is so difficult about Jan’s case is that most people will agree that she should have been helped from the very beginning; it seems evident that she simply fell through the cracks of the system. Thankfully, through a commitment to mission and utter determination, Jan and St. Francis Center kept another person off the streets.