After years of research and work, a voucher program to help local homeless veterans find permanent housing has been approved to the tune of almost $95,000.
“The vouchers are powerful tools,” said Jennifer Lopez, development specialist for the Western Slope for the Colorado Division of Housing and the Colorado Housing Authority. “They make up the difference between what the veterans can afford to pay and the cost of the housing market. It’s an ongoing subsidy and very difficult to get.”
The approval was announced through the office of Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo. The grant also was pursued by Gov. John Hickenlooper and Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.
The funding, enough to take care of 15 veterans locally, comes from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Department of Veterans Affairs controls where the funding goes.
“In our case, it’s pretty complicated,” Lopez said about Durango’s share of the $1 million approved for the state. “The actual management will be through the Colorado Division of Housing in Denver, but the VA will handle referrals out of Albuquerque. We’re hoping to be a showcase for other rural communities because usually this funding goes to urban areas.”
This week, Lopez is in Grand Junction, which already is administering a Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program, to see how they do it. She’s planning to put together a steering committee to hammer out the details for Durango’s first VASH program pretty quickly, with hopes of beginning to administer vouchers by late summer.
The Volunteers of America’s new program for transitional housing for vets will be an important part of the picture, Lopez said, and Sarada Leavenworth, executive director of VOA, said she’s excited because the vouchers take her program to another level.
The VASH funding came about after a number of local organizations and agencies developed a Vulnerability Index for our area at Hickenlooper’s request. The index process identified more than 15 homeless vets, but this is a significant start, Lopez said.
Udall expects the current grant to help about 200 veterans across the state, many of whom deal with chronic disabling conditions.
“Homelessness is a serious problem for many veterans in Colorado,” Udall said in his news release. “Men and women who risked their lives to protect our country deserve to have roofs over their heads. These competitive grants will get Colorado veterans off the streets and help local agencies move closer to ending homelessness for all veterans across Colorado.”