Salvation Army in Colorado Springs provides more beds for homeless vets

Oct 9, 2020 | by Debbie Kelley

The Salvation Army in El Paso County, under a Department of Veterans Affairs-funded program, is providing overnight shelter, food and assistance for 43 homeless veterans to get off them off the streets.

That’s twice as many beds specifically for homeless veterans than The Salvation Army has offered for the past two years.

The expansion means former military men and women who are struggling with building stable lives have a greater chance to do so, said Capt. Doug Hanson, who heads local operations of The Salvation Army, an evangelical Christian church.

“Their problems are so unique, compared to the general homeless population that they really need specialized services,” he said.

Participants are required to enter a professional development program that includes case management, group therapy and classes led by peers covering issues such as finding employment, basic living skills and barriers to success.

While in the program, which can last up to one year or more depending on the veterans’ needs, participants receive a place to stay while working toward “graduation” — or accomplishing two goals: securing permanent housing and increasing income and savings.

Veterans do not need to be sober from alcohol or drugs to join, Hanson said.

As of Oct. 1, 12 new beds at The Salvation Army’s R.J. Montgomery Center at 709 S. Sierra Madre St., are designated for program participants, who may or may not be actively using substances.

About 10% to 12% of clients at the center, a 232-bed shelter for homeless men, women and families, are military veterans, Hanson said.

Another 31 beds in apartments at a complex on The Salvation Army’s main campus at 980 Yuma St., have been set aside for the veterans’ program and require sober living.

The Salvation Army joined the VA Grant Per Diem Program two years ago with 22 beds. In two years, 50 vets have enrolled in the program, and 34 met the goals of increasing their income and successfully moving into their own place, which does not include sleeping on a couch in someone else's home, Hanson said.

That number represents a 68% success rate and includes one graduate who did so well he was able to buy a home, Hanson said. The achievement prompted the VA to ask the organization to consider adding more beds for the next two years, making it the county's largest operator of the program.

While many organizations have programs to help veterans, most are for those who are further along in gaining independence, Hanson said.

“Ours is for veterans who aren’t as stable and benefit from case management, classes and group therapy," he said.

The program also differs from others in that it accepts veteran families, not just single vets, he said.

Group therapy and classes led by vets who are living independently develop camaraderie and deepen participants’ ability to share and make progress toward self-sufficiency because they are surrounded by people who have been through simliar circumstances, Hanson said.

The program helped Army veteran Lawrence Dewberry, who had been homeless and now lives on a low-income unit that the local nonprofit Greccio Housing owns.

"I think it worked for me because it was very positive," he said. "They gave me an apartment, fed me all my meals, and the classes were great.

"I don't understand why any veteran is homeless — unless he wants to be," Dewberry said.

The VA reimburses The Salvation Army $49.91 per participant per day to cover lodging, meals and case management services.

“Ultimately, you don’t want to live in a program,” Hanson said. “Everyone sees these people have served our country, and if their problems from war come back home with them, everyone wants to help.”

Another local agency, Rocky Mountain Human Services, has been paying for more than 100 homeless vets to live in motels during the COVID-19 pandemic and under its Homes for All Veterans program intends to try to funnel them into housing programs, using pandemic relief funds.

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