KUSA – While the Department of Veterans Affairs will fall short of its goal to end veteran homelessness in 2015, the agency is making significant progress with the help of community partners.

Some veterans have been chronically homeless for a decade or more. Others are on the edge.

Navy veteran James Cole and his wife have been living in their broken-down van for months. He turned to the VA for assistance because he worries the days in the van are numbered.

“The fear of someone seeing us living in there and calling the cops, and that’s it,” Cole said.

According to the Denver VA, there are nearly 600 homeless veterans in the metro area. That’s less than half the number of homeless vets from four years ago, in part due to successful partnerships with local human services organizations.

This month, Volunteers of America and Rocky Mountain Human Services were granted a combined $4 million in federal funding to help find housing for more homeless veterans in the next year.

“Without a foundation of stable housing underneath you, your ability to succeed in other parts of life is severely limited,” Brenton Hutson, Colorado division director of veterans services for Volunteers of America, said. “Imagine waking up for work on the streets unable to shower.”

Volunteers of America uses grants to help some veterans use low-cost motel rooms as temporary housing.

The agency also helps veterans with apartment searches, application fees, deposits, and sometimes monthly rental assistance.

However, finding permanent places can be challenging as apartments become less affordable in the booming Denver market.

“We can’t do it without the support of landlords, without the support of community partners, and even everyday individuals walking down the street,” Hutson said.

The first step into a real home can be a giant leap into a better life.

“I know I can be safe, and that’s what I want,” Ricardo Lanford, another homeless veteran being helped by Volunteers of America, said.

RESOURCES:

DENVER VA HOMELESS VETERAN SERVICES: http://1.usa.gov/1KoEHjN

VOLUNTEERS OF AMERICA VETERANS PROGRAM: http://bit.ly/1NBQP3w

(© 2015 KUSA)

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