Denver, CO Gets New Pilot Program to Assist Chronic Homeless Veterans

Denver gets new pilot program to

help chronically homeless

veterans

Posted: 08/24/2010 01:00:00 AM MDT

Army veteran Derrick Green prays in his apartment, funded by the VA and the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. Denver will be part of a pilot program that helps get more homeless veterans housing — and treatment for physical, mental and addiction problems. (Craig F. Walker, The Denver Post)

Denver is one of five cities where the Department of Veterans Affairs will pilot a new program to help homeless veterans.

The program, funded with a $33 million grant over five years, will create a 40-bed program for chronically homeless vets.

Geographic need is one reason Denver was chosen. Currently, the closest program for Denver-area homeless veterans who require residential treatment for alcohol, drugs and psychological problems is in Sheridan, Wyo.

The Denver program will be housed in an existing building — not yet selected — and is expected to start in about 18 months. The other cities are San Diego, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Miami.

“It’s not a shelter, but a therapeutic, holistic treatment center for homeless vets, because Denver is a hub for the homeless in general,” said Jordan Schupbach, spokesman for the VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System.

Residential treatment programs offer a variety of services, including help with medical, mental health and addiction problems and job-skills training.

A recent VA study of veterans who graduated from residential rehabilitation and transitional housing programs showed that 79 percent remained independently housed one year later.

Derrick Green, a homeless vet in the VA’s transitional housing program at the Renaissance Civic Center Apartments, is optimistic about the new program.

“I think it’s a great idea,” he said. “There’s a lot of veterans with problems. All the help we can get, we need. To bring that program to Denver would be a plus.”

The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless provided housing, health care and supportive services to 1,383 homeless veterans in 2009, a 26 percent increase from the 1,096 served in 2008.

Nationwide, the number of veterans homeless on a typical night dropped 18 percent from 2003 to 2009, when it was about 107,000, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is in the second year of a five-year

Green studies for a math exam. Before the assistance, he was homeless: “I had one foot in the grave and one foot on a banana peel.” (Craig F. Walker, The Denver Post)

campaign to end homelessness among veterans.Still, some federal agencies are concerned some veterans returning from war could end up sleeping out in the cold.

“We do not want men and women returning from Afghanistan and Iraq to find themselves homeless and on the streets,” said Barbara Poppe, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, during a visit to Denver in July to discuss with state and city providers a new federal strategic plan to end homelessness. “That’s a great risk.”

Work is now being done to create better transition planning, she said, and the VA “is announcing some new ventures, and new pilot programs, around that.”

“I think it’s going to be fabulous,” said Lynn Rider, a case manager at the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless who works with homeless veterans in the VA’s grant and per-diem program, which provides transitional housing.

She’s had homeless veterans come into her Denver program at the Renaissance Civic Center Apartments after spending time at the residential program in Wyoming.

She’s also had to send some vets from the Denver program up to Wyoming.

“They were struggling with really severe, chronic mental illness — primarily PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) — and because of their symptoms, they were not able to take care of themselves in the grant per-diem program, which is really independent. So they needed that extra boost,” she said.

In her

Derrick Green picks up his mail. A former combat engineer, he was honorably discharged in 1981, but developed a drug problem that led to prison, then homelessness. (Craig F. Walker, The Denver Post)

visit to Denver, Poppe praised the city for its efforts to reduce homelessness among veterans.”You have an active partner in the VA, and are participating here in ways not always seen in other communities,” she said. “There is still a ways to go, but you have made good progress.”

Colleen O’Connor: 303-954-1083 or coconnor@denverpost.com

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2 thoughts on “Denver, CO Gets New Pilot Program to Assist Chronic Homeless Veterans

  1. As an insider to this project, ….the intention is wonderful The reality is the infighting at VA and the politics which makes programs like these slow to get off ground and laden heavily in redtape. This was a joke in the Planning phase. In the private sector this would never have been handled in these ways. Sure it’s import to be detailed and careful, but the infighting and politics have ruined this project. It will get off ground. The result is it will serve very few people and the VA will want to use it a psych inpatient hospital as they bed limits on days spend in hospital and University shut there psych hospital down. This is part of the infighting. Upper administration at Denver VA does not respect Mental Health Services, and as shit rolls down hill, Mental Health Admin doesn’t respect the social services programs like Homeless. In the end, they all want the feather in their cap saying what they do to help veterans. It’s a taxpayer ripoff. Not the project, but the idiots, doctors, psychologists, social workers, nurses, and other bureaucrats who are in the planning process. This would never happen in the private sector because people care about their jobs and efficiently act.

  2. This is the best thing that has happened to the Vets in this area.. I was homeless in 1996 and at that time, I had help from Samaritan House. There were no other services that specifically help Veterans.

    If you have any info on the per-Diem program in Denver, please send the info to me because my small pension does not make it. I. As many Vet’s are a paycheck away from homelessness, and it is getting dire.

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