Mobile Social Services Address Gaps in Suburban Colorado

In the Denver suburb of Aurora, nonprofits are using 'mobile public spaces' to reach refugees settling in the autocentric community.

January 19, 2022, 10:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

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Erica Dorn reports on efforts underway in Aurora, Colorado to find innovative ways to provide social services in dispersed, auto-dependent suburbs that are becoming increasingly diverse. With a population that speaks over 160 languages, the community, according to Dorn, reflects the future of the American suburb. But suburbs are also experiencing a rise in poverty rates and an increasing number of residents that rely on social services that are often scarce in suburban areas.

Organizations like Project Worthmore are creating decentralized service hubs that can provide access to more of Aurora's refugee and immigrant populations. Casa de Paz, a nonprofit serving immigrants released from ICE detention, recently launched Casa on Wheels, a "mobile welcoming center" that greets asylum seekers just outside the ICE detention center and provides essential supplies like clothing, food, and assistance in accessing support programs.

Advocates point out that these are stopgap measures, but that the goal of inclusive, sustainable suburban communities will require a deeper commitment to and investment in stable affordable housing, transit-oriented development, and good jobs. As Dorn notes, "While expanding mobile offerings is essential, looking ahead, suburbs must invest in infrastructure, economic development, and placemaking that build true communities for new and old residents alike."

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