Meet Jim Coelho // A Man On the Front Lines

Written by Valerie Cabrera, Public Relations Intern

Jim at his Desk (2)

Jim Coelho was making his usual rounds as a Facility Assistant around the Lawrence Street Shelter when he heard a shout for help.

After sprinting outside, he noticed a hurt man, who had come to make a donation, leaning against the building. His attacker was coming at him again with renewed vigor, but Jim intervened. Over the next 30 minutes, while he waited for the police to arrive, he pressed a knee into the attacker’s back… and the entire time Jim whispered prayers for him.

Although that’s not a typical day as a Facility Assistant (Jim’s only been assaulted once during his notable 15-year run at Denver Rescue Mission), it’s a memorable one for him, especially since that same man who he had prayed for years earlier has come back to see Jim three years later. He wants to be a part of the New Life Program.

I sat down to talk with Jim about his longtime job as a Facility Assistant at the Lawrence Street Shelter and got to hear all about his duties as an FA, his love and compassion for the guests he serves, and how he deals with the tough stuff.

Valerie: Can you walk me through your shift as a Facility Assistant at the Lawrence Street Shelter?

Jim: My shift starts at 5:30 a.m., so I’ve got to be an early riser. When I get here, there’s a 30-minute shift change where I get all the updates from the previous FA. I usually check all my email and respond to anything urgent. I’m also responsible for making work therapy schedules for the New Life Program participants and candidates, so I do that. And then I walk the house, making sure that people are doing what they’re supposed to be doing and being where they’re supposed to be. I document UA’s (urinary analysis) for NLP guys on Scribe and I also write incident reports if anything comes up. One shift is eight hours so I get to be here to make sure breakfast and lunch run smoothly.

V: How are you involved with the guests as an FA?

J: All the FA’s through all the different shifts, we are on the front lines. We’re the ones that everything filters down through. My favorite part is being able to get involved with the guys on a one-on-one basis. Being able to be a big brother, you know, someone who cares, to meet their needs. That’s my job, that’s what I get to do. Sometimes when I’m making my rounds, and see outside guests that are in here for a meal, I’ll sit down and start talking with them. I’m really looking forward to the Lawrence Street Community Center.

V: How do you deal with any obstacles that come up in your job?

J: When you hit an obstacle, or a barricade or something, you’ve got to come at them with compassion. You don’t judge. You listen to people. You don’t go after a person at their level, you go after them at your level and you bring them to you.

V: What is your favorite part about working at Denver Rescue Mission?

J: Getting to meet great people. Taking into consideration the position I’m in, I meet a lot of volunteers and donors. I’ve never met so many caring, compassionate, willing-to-give people.

V: Do you have anything you want to say to those who work at/with the Mission?

J: I think my prayer for the Mission is that we all walk the walk.

V: Last question! Is there anything else you’d like to say about your job?

J: I feel blessed to be able to do what I do. I feel blessed to be part of an organization that helps so many people in just a one 8-hour shift. When I go home, I’m at peace with myself.

Fun Facts about Jim:

  • Jim is a native Rhode Islander but longtime Southern Californian.
  • He is a former New Life Program participant.
  • He stayed in Denver after his car broke down very near the Lawrence Street Shelter.
  • You can usually see him in his trademark dark sunglasses because of a special eye condition.



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