A former campground off Avenida del Sol near Roosa Avenue has evolved into a social services campus with a soup kitchen, homeless shelter and a halfway house.
In a sign of the times, transitional housing for homeless veterans could be the latest social service to join the campus with the Regional Housing Alliance of La Plata County looking to build a 6,000- to 8,000-square-foot facility on the southwest corner.
Last year, Durango Community Shelter served 76 homeless veterans, or about 15 percent of the 523 residents it provided shelter, said Sarada Leavenworth, division director of Volunteers of America.
All of the veterans were former active-duty service members who had served in conflicts dating back to Vietnam, but the number of homeless veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq is growing, said Leavenworth.
The county is home to 5,000 veterans.
Seeking a comprehensive approach to helping veterans, organizers want to provide wrap-around services to help veterans with issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse. Veterans and their families could stay for a maximum of two years while they got help.
HomeAid Colorado, a nonprofit supported by the construction industry, would build the facility, which would be its first project in Southwest Colorado, said local developer, Emil Wanatka, who is leading the construction phase of the project.
One problem that still needs to be resolved is finding a stable source of funding to operate the facility once its built, Leavenworth said.
A local nonprofit would also have to manage the property and coordinate services from multiple agencies.
While priority would be given to veterans, other homeless and victims of domestic violence might also benefit from the facility.
City councilors were supportive of the plans presented during a Tuesday study session, noting that veterans could benefit from the synergy of services offered on the campus.
In recognizing the need, Mayor Christina Rinderle recalled meeting two homeless female veterans who had lived out of a car until they found transitional housing at a similar kind of facility in Denver.
In the upcoming months, the council is expected to review 20-year lease agreements for the social services agencies that operate on the campus, such as Manna Soup Kitchen, Hilltop House halfway house, Volunteers of America and Housing Solutions.
The 20-year leasing terms are supposed to help the agencies in finding funding for projects.
Manna Soup Kitchen, for instance, is considering an expansion of its building and garden.
Councilor Sweetie Marbury broke into tears when describing her times volunteering at the Manna Soup Kitchen.
Ive cooked breakfast up there, Marbury said. Its a life-changing experience.