By Jamie Swinnerton
The Denver VOICE takes a closer look at some of the partnerships between organizations serving homeless veterans.
For many homeless veterans, the journey to find resources starts at The Community Resource and Referral Center (CRRC), run by the Department of Veterans Affairs at 3030 Downing St. The CRRC was set up to be an easy and accessible drop-in center for all homeless veterans in the area. Its initial goal was to reach out to those who had yet to engage with the VA and its services by reaching them where they are. An outreach worker in the area works to identify veterans and bring them to the CRRC, or give them an assessment in the field that informs them of the services they are eligible for. The CRRC has showers, storage, a walk-in clinic, and case managers on hand to help homeless veterans find housing and vocational programs. Sometimes veterans will be referred from the CRRC to partner groups for housing opportunities.
The VA also runs a domiciliary in Lakewood called Valor Point, which opened in 2013. This residential treatment site is for veterans who need assistance and treatment intervention to gain skills that will help them move to independent living. The facility includes 40 rooms total, 32 for men and 8 for women.
Several partner groups in the Denver area receive grants from the VA to run transitional housing sites, which offer veterans a place to live for up to two years. These grants provide money for case management as well as help finding the veterans permanent housing. Groups that receive these grants include the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, as well as Volunteers of America.
The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless runs four transitional housing facilities for homeless veterans, all of which are funded through grants from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The residents of all four sites are referrals from the VA; often times they are walk-ins at the CRRC. Veterans seeking help must be referred by the VA to enter one of the following housing programs.
Civic Center Apartments, in the old YMCA building at 16th and Lincoln, has thirty-nine units specifically for veterans who are in recovery of some kind. “One can be in recovery from a mental health disorder, one can be in recovery from substance abuse, one could apply that same definition for recovery of homelessness,” said Petra Ulrych, the program manager for Native American and veteran services at Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. The veterans in recovery can stay for up to twenty-four months as they move toward becoming self-sufficient.
The same criteria is not required for veterans being housed at Victory House, a twelve-unit site at 1732 High Street. Most of the residents here are moving from transitional housing into permanent housing and need a place to live until they can find employment, save up money, or stabilize their benefits.
Beacon Place, near Colfax Ave. and Federal Blvd., provides transitional housing for homeless residents, many of whom are single adults living with mental illness. The property has some space reserved for disabled veterans, and provides twenty-four hour on-site case management and support services to all residents.
The final housing program run by the coalition is called Transition in Place, or TIP. The idea is simple: instead of going through the traditional model of transitional housing, the veteran should transition somewhere permanent. The Coalition signs a master lease and over time the veterans will take over the lease themselves when they can. Once a veteran is able to afford market rent, either through employment, benefits, or a mix of both, they will start paying the rent for their apartment. The program has capacity for 25 veterans. It is currently housing 21 veterans, and is taking referrals from the VA to bring four more into the program.
But housing is not the only area that the Coalition can help homeless veterans with. At 563 E. Colfax Ave. sits the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program, a resource for homeless veterans that helps them find employment. Through an extensive orientation veterans learn the “A to Z when it comes to employment,” said Tammy Bellofatto, manager of vocational services. A job developer on staff helps veterans to find employment, and will follow them for up to a year. The program helps around 150 veterans per grant year.
For female veterans experiencing homelessness, Volunteers of America (VoA) runs a transitional housing program that can help fifteen veteran women at a time. First, the women come into the program through a shelter. VoA runs a shelter out of a motel on West Colfax that serves anyone in need. A few of these beds are reserved for veterans. After meeting with a case manager, the veterans move into one of three transitional group houses, with rooms for five women in each. “Frequently our veterans are in recovery from PTSD or military sexual trauma. Our program specifically for female veterans is designed to meet them where they are in their journey and move forward. The goal is to live independently,” Jordan Kellerman, director of public relations and marketing, explained.
Several years ago the VoA received a Supportive Services for Veterans Families grant from the VA. The program supported by the grant focuses on rapid re-housing, which places veterans in an apartment that is paid for by the VoA. Over time the VoA will phase themselves out until the veteran can pay their own rent. But that’s not all the VoA does, Kellerman said. “We help them get a job, we help them get food, we help them go through all their VA paperwork, and we connect them with our own case managers here. Any support that they need to live independently is what we do with that program,” she said.
This month the VoA will open a “one-stop-shop” for veterans in a renovated building at 12th and Santa Fe. After finding out that veterans were traveling an average of forty miles a day for different services, the VoA decided to move as many of the necessary services as they could to one location. Case managers and the grant program will be at the new facility, as well as other non-profits that benefit veterans. ■