Aurora, Colorado is a vibrant, inclusive city with a long-standing history of community involvement and embracing immigrant and refugee populations. The city’s collaborative governance and inclusivity continue to make Aurora a welcoming place to live.
This spirit of collaboration can be seen best in the city’s community-based problem solving. Virtually all problems in the city are addressed by involving relevant stakeholders, building consensus among all stakeholders, and then harnessing the collective power of the group to meet the goal. Through the diversity of opinions, knowledge and strengths, Aurora is unified in its efforts to think strategically and create a high quality of life for its residents.
Natural Helpers Program: Mentoring Aurora’s Newest Residents
One out of five residents in Aurora, Colorado is foreign born. To welcome and integrate these residents into the community, the Natural Helpers Program was started with the support of Aurora’s Office of International and Immigrant Affairs. The Natural Helpers Program is designed to support immigrants and refugees who are new to Aurora by providing a mentor relationship between the newcomer and a community leader.
Each Natural Helper attends a comprehensive training course in order to become a mentor and champion for those who have come to live in the diverse city. During the educational portion of the program mentors receive information about how to walk someone through health insurance enrollment, how to access city resources, and whom to contact as trusted service providers.
A Spanish version of the Natural Helpers curriculum was developed to offer fully interpreted classroom time and translated resource guides for the cohort to take on the road.
The Natural Helpers who have completed the program and who continue to work in the area come from 36 different countries and have gained better employment opportunities, joined community boards and commissions, and started businesses.
Since 2016, the Natural Helpers Program has reported spending 465 hours helping 2,198 people in Aurora, Colorado. Top areas of support and engagement include:
Public Safety – Beyond Expectations
The City of Aurora continues to bridge the trust gap between their diverse community and first responders. Through multiple partnerships and programs, the city hopes to see further reductions in crime, improved community safety and enhanced quality of life for residents.
AKCRT- Aurora has created community engagement programs offered by law enforcement and fire/EMS providers. One of the groups is the Aurora Key Community Response Team (AKCRT). The AKCRT is composed of community leaders and activists that address matters of concern involving the city’s public safety departments. Dozens of police officers and firefighters meet with different organizations and agencies from the city, including: state representatives, Boys & Girls Club, the Aurora Housing Authority, and many more local groups.
Community Policing Advisory Team- In February 2017, the Aurora Chief of Police implemented a new initiative for enhancing community relations – the Community Policing Advisory Team (CPAT). The CPAT is composed of community members who are empowered to have significant influence on decisions made by police executives. This allows for a more collaborative policy-setting approach between police and community.
Teen Public Safety Academies- Both the Aurora Police Department and Aurora Fire Rescue offer camps for teens so that they can better understand public safety response in the city. The activities offered are hands-on, interactive classes like K-9 demonstrations, live firefighting techniques, and in-depth discussions.
Camp Spark– Aurora Fire Rescue initiated this program to help young women realize their potential in career fields that aren’t traditionally held by females. The camp offers leadership discussions and conversations with female firefighters and private sector executives from around the country.
Homelessness Assistance Programs
The Aurora City Council has allocated $4.5 million dollars in marijuana tax revenue to support homelessness programs over the next three years. Their overarching goal is to lessen the effects of homelessness by looking at national best practices and applying them appropriately to Aurora.
The tax money will go toward supporting those in need in Aurora through the following programs:
Home of Our Own- This program provides first month’s rent, security deposit assistance, and/or utility deposit assistance to Aurora residents who are living in motel/hotels, mobile homes scheduled for demolition, and shelters. Applicants must meet HUD’s low/moderate income guidelines and other program criteria.
Aurora@Home- A collaborative that supports people experiencing homelessness by providing resources like culturally appropriate mental health services, primary healthcare, and paths to housing. Aurora@Home works to help families in need, pairing affordable housing with individualized services and case management so that participants achieve sustainable self-sufficiency. This mission is achieved through cross-provider, community-wide involvement designed to promote a responsive, streamlined system for accessing housing and related services.
Emergency Solution Grants (ESG)- The program assists people to regain stability in permanent housing after experiencing a housing crisis. Aurora receives ESG grants and makes these funds available directly to nonprofit agencies in Aurora, such as substance abuse programs, domestic violence shelters, emergency housing nonprofits and others.