Veteran homelessness isn’t a Veteran issue – it’s a community issue.
Every month in Colorado Springs, Rocky Mountain Human Services (RMHS) hosts the Community Advisory Council on Veteran Homelessness (CACVH). The CACVH includes organizations and individuals working to ensure our community has a well-coordinated and efficient system so that homelessness is rare, brief and non-recurring, and no Veteran is forced to live on the street. This means that every vulnerable Veteran experiencing homelessness has access to the supports they need to avoid staying on the street and move quickly to permanent housing. CACVH participants are people living in the community, as well as a wide range of public and private sector organizations, including Representatives of U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner; The Colorado Springs Mayor’s office; Veteran Service Officers and local Vet Centers; nonprofits like the Mt. Carmel Veteran Service Center, Homeward Pikes Peak, Peak Military Care Network, The Homefront Care, and the VFW; businesses dedicated to seeking ways to support housing for Veterans; and others.
Each month RMHS presents current El Paso County data relative to five goals established by the federal government on “ending Veteran homelessness.” Through efforts of RMHS and the CACVH, El Paso County has achieved two of the five goals and is making progress on the others. Lack of affordable housing is an enormous barrier to achieving the goal “Homelessness is rare,” but we are collaborating with the CACVH and other supports within the community to increase capacity through continued landlord engagements efforts and incentives to more quickly move Veterans into safe, permanent housing.
The most important part of the meeting is conversation – what participants are seeing happening in the community, new resources that have become available (or are no longer available), ideas for ways to ensure that every Veteran has access to safe stable housing, and whatever the participants feel that others should know about. Sometimes we hear people say, “Why isn’t anyone coordinating efforts to support Veterans who are experiencing homelessness?” It’s exciting to be able to respond, “The CACVH is doing just that!” The CACVH is the platform for working together to reduce duplication and to fill the gaps in our community so we can effectively meet the needs of these men and women in our community.
A hot topic the past few months was utilizing our data and expertise to coordinate and support applications for transitional housing beds. Through the CACVH, four local agencies submitted applications to serve 42 Veteran households meeting the diverse gaps in our community, including service intensive transitional housing needs for individuals with vouchers, couples, families, and singles seeking to recover from substance abuse disorders. Award notice will come in October 2018, and we are hoping these agencies will be funded to support our efforts in ending Veteran homelessness in El Paso County.
Interested in joining us? Please do! We meet at 9:30 am on the 3rd Friday of every month at RMHS’ offices at 17 S. Weber St. in Colorado Springs. Our next meeting is March 16th.