VA grant re-opens Salvation Army apartments

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The 40-unit complex will once again house veterans and low-income clients in Colorado Springs.

By Eric Dietrich –

Homeless veterans in Colorado Springs now have a new opportunity to get their lives back on track, thanks to a federal grant and the local Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army’s Service-Intensive Transitional Housing (SITH) program was unveiled in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Oct. 1. It provides 22 beds of apartment-style housing for veterans who are either homeless or at-risk of losing the roof over their heads.

The idea, said El Paso Country Coordinator and Colorado Springs Corps Officer Captain Erin Kauffman, is the program will provide stable housing as participating veterans work toward being able to live independently. In addition to housing with roommates, participants will receive meals, help with transportation and the opportunity to participate in Bible studies, Alcoholics Anonymous groups and job counseling.

It’s a lifeline for Dellis Morris, a 39-year-old Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran.

“The Salvation Army came to the rescue,” he said. “Now I’m on the right track of possibility.”

Morris, a naturalized citizen born in Jamaica, joined the U.S. Army after 9/11, serving in Kuwait and Iraq, where he said he was attacked while manning a security checkpoint in 2003. He received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star as a result of the attack, but a fellow soldier was killed and Morris was left with PTSD and a traumatic brain injury that have complicated his post-military life.

Captain David Kauffman speaks at the opening of the Service Intensive Transitional Housing program in Colorado Springs. Seated behind him in support were: Craig Whitney, Advisory Board Chair; Mayor John Suthers; Veterans Administration Regional Director Sallie Houser-Hanfelder; Congressional Representative to Doug Lamborn, Jim Tackett; and Senatorial Representative to Michael Bennet, Annie Oatman-Gardner.

After receiving a medical discharge from the army in 2005, he worked at various jobs, including a stint with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Worsening health forced him to leave the job at the VA, he said, then a rent increase left him unable to afford his apartment.

Morris spent several months living in his car before a Colorado Springs nonprofit, Rocky Mountain Human Services, referred him to the new Salvation Army program. As of early October, he was freshly re-housed, paired with a Salvation Army case manager and optimistic about his future.

“They’re going above and beyond to make you comfortable so you can focus on your health,” he said.

The program is funded by a Veterans Affairs Per Diem grant, with the Colorado Springs Corps one of three recipients in the state. Participating veterans are eligible for stays as long as two years, though the program aims to get most clients into permanent housing elsewhere before that.

The program building, a 40-unit apartment complex owned by the Colorado Springs Corps, was previously used as housing for low-income clients, Kauffman said, though it had to close after the corps lost other funding a couple years ago. Reopening the building for the veterans program will help The Salvation Army use the rest of the building for other clients, too, she said.

“We’re back in business.”

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