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Sam Gilman The Community Economic Defense Project

Sam Gilman

Co-Founder & Co-CEO

The Community Economic Defense Project

Location: Denver

Founded: 2020

Industry: Nonprofit

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Sam Gilman and his friends volunteered their time and skills as eviction defense lawyers, free of charge, to the people who desperately needed them. In the process of working with those they served, they heard an additional need for more services and a need for rental assistance. With that knowledge, Gilman and his partners designed a program to fill those needs with the creation of The Community Economic Defense Project.

“As an eviction defense lawyer, I knew that missed paychecks – for the millions who live paycheck to paycheck – would lead to an avalanche displacement at a time when the public health guidance was ‘safer at home,’” said Gilman.

The Community Economic Defense Project’s scope encompasses a fully integrated response to economic hardship and innovative service delivery models. The organization’s work has expanded far beyond eviction defense by advocating for rights for mobile home residents, directly preventing homelessness through diversion efforts, offering foreclosure and HOA defense services, taking on predatory consumer and medical debt, and defending and providing aid to victims of non-consensual towing.

Under Gilman’s leadership, the nonprofit has grown to more than 100 full-time employees with representatives across Colorado. By 2022, the organization’s budget was over $80 million with 89% of those funds providing federal rental assistance for clients.

“We have served tens of thousands of people, most of them Black, Indigenous or Latino, and we have lobbied on laws about tenant rights and predatory towing, and capping the cost of EpiPens,” said Gilman. “That’s really what economic defense is about; it’s that single point of entry, meeting a family or an individual where they are.”

As a leader, Gilman is described as someone who shares the passion to help and has a drive to serve. “He listens to what everyone has to say, he looks deeper at the issues that are driving our clients, community members and economic insecurity, and has worked side by side with the team to design an ever-evolving toolbox to address issues,” said his staff.

One of Gilman’s most notable accomplishments has been championing Colorado HB23-1002 which capped the cost of EpiPens at $60. He has also been instrumental in securing new and increased funding for the agency. The Community Economic Defense Project went from $18.8 million in funding in 2021 to $84.4 million in 2022.

“Sam is always very quick to point out that this whole journey has been a team effort, and he takes no credit for himself,” said his staff. “He has been a tireless advocate for not only people in the community who need us but also for the members of the organization.”

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I am not sure I have a superpower – would be curious what others would say. I try as hard as possible to step into other people’s shoes.


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