Posted: Oct 17, 2011 5:40 PM by Matt Stafford
Updated: Oct 17, 2011 6:42 PM
"Let me tell you, my business cards are still warm from the printing press," says Dee Drake, program director for Homes for all Veterans; she seems anxious to start handing them out.
Drake and her staff are eager to get things started at Homes for all Veterans. It's a project taken on by Denver Options, a group that uses public grant money to help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Denver Options began working with members of the military after so many were coming home with traumatic brain injuries. They decided to put together a larger plan to address veteran homelessness; they received a grant from Veterans Affairs and began putting together Homes for All Veterans. The office's first official day was Monday.
The V.A. Grant is about $930 thousand, with at least a third of it strictly dedicated to the veterans in need of help. It's a statewide program, but they've decided to place the main office in Colorado Springs.
"We anticipate that the need is going to be really great in this area, and we just think that it's going to grow over the coming years," says Drake.
Drake says that will come with the U.S. Military drawdown in the Middle East, but Drake also knows there are plenty of vets, already home, who need help. Even on day one they're already hearing from people.
"We have had three referrals so far this morning, and we have more people waiting at the door," says Rafael Vega, program assistant.
Vega is a 20 year veteran of the Navy. Care Coordinator Erin Merritt is a Marine veteran; it's what she saw happening to others getting out of the service that got her involved.
"Issues with families, getting income, getting benefits; just kind of reintegrating into civilian life," says Merritt.
Homes for All Veterans has people from each branch of service, and they feel that insider info will help vets navigate a system that can be confusing at times.
Figuring out exactly how many will need help is still a work in progress.
"This first year is going to be a mark year for us as far as determining what the level is, but even after this first year we're actually going to have a growth in the need," says Drake. They're already planning on how to brace for that.