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Veterans are over-represented among the homeless population. It is estimated that veterans represent nine percent of the total homeless population, and that homeless veterans tend to be male (91 percent), single (98 percent), live in a city (76 percent), and have a mental and/or physical disability (54 percent).
— Colorado Coalition for the Homeless
If you know a veteran in need of assistance, call 1-877-424-3838 (877-4AID-VET).
If you’re interested in volunteering or donating to the Veterans Affairs Eastern Colorado Health Care System, visit www.denver.va.gov/giving/index.asp.
To be successful at something, it usually takes more than one go. And that includes getting off the streets and finding stable living and employment.
Mike, 54, and Eddie, 55, neither of who wanted their last names used for privacy reasons, are two veterans who have lived this truth. But thanks to Valor Point Domiciliary for Homeless Veterans in south Lakewood, part of the Veterans Affairs Eastern Colorado Health Care System, both men are working toward a better future.
“I’ve been here before and successfully progressed through the program,” said Mike, who served in the Navy from 1988 through 1991 during the Gulf War. “Because of unforeseen circumstances, I’m back here again. But they’re helping me with housing.”
Valor Point was opened nearly five years ago thanks to a federal grant aimed at helping homeless veterans. It’s a satellite of the Veterans Affairs facilities in downtown Denver, and is part of the continuum of care veterans have access to after their service is finished.
“We’re a piece of the puzzle for veterans in need,” said Dr. Thomas Kinney, program manager at Valor Point. “We’re one of about 230 Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program facilities around the country that offer a variety of services to veterans.”
The number of homeless veterans in Colorado is about 1,181, according to the 2016 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s annual report on homelessness, which was an increase of 231 veterans from 2015.
As one of those veterans, Eddie, who was an Army Ranger from 1979 through 1982, said if he didn’t have access to the services at Valor Point, he would be homeless on the street.
“The cost of living in Denver is very high right now, so I’m saving money after I just started a new job,” he said. “I’ve been here for five months already, and hopefully will be able to find a place to live.”
Valor Point has 40 beds in 37 rooms. As Kinney explains, this is to provide their residents with privacy and to help them learn the skills necessary for sustainable living on their own. Residents can stay for as short a time as two months, but others have stayed as long as 10 to 12 months.
“We really try to personalize their time here, so it’s however long they need to find a job and place to live,” Kinney said. “While they’re here, they have access to help like social workers, mental health experts, physical and art therapists, and employment and housing liaisons.”
The facility has a gym, art studio with a kiln, and cafeteria and gathering area for their residents.
High housing costs are a major barrier for many veterans, and many also have problems getting the funds for first and last month’s rent, or the references required on an apartment application, Kinney added.
“One thing that really helps veterans once they are looking for a place to live is scatter site housing, which means formerly homeless veterans are spread out in the community, instead of all housed in one place,” he said. “This allows them to integrate into their community and feel like they’re a part of it.”
It takes partnerships to make a facility like Valor Point function, and in addition to other Veterans Affairs facilities, nonprofits like The Action Center, and restaurants like Texas Roadhouse help out whenever possible. This past Thanksgiving the Sheridan Texas Roadhouse’s servers, hostesses, managers and kitchen prepared turkeys, home-made stuffing, home-made sweet potato pie and made-from-scratch rolls for Valor Point residents.
That sense of community is what makes the facility important for its residents, and a vital step on the path toward sustainable living.
“As long as others like myself know there are places like this that can provide assistance with a direction in life, we can better ourselves,” Mike said. “The VA sometimes gets a bad rap from people, but this is something they got totally right.”
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