New office opens to help veterans find homes
WHAT: Open House of new Rocky Mountain Human Services office serving military veterans
WHEN: 3-5 p.m. Thurs., Oct. 24
WHERE: Center for Independence, 740 Gunnison Ave.
COST: Free, open to the public
U.S. Army veteran Lydia Nelson and her husband, Mike Nelson, also a military veteran, fell on hard times after Mike was laid off from his contractor job at Buckley Air Force base in Denver. Lydia had just given birth to their second son.
They walked away from their condominium, filed bankruptcy and went to live in Colorado Springs in a house they were fixing up in lieu of paying rent. After the entire family became seriously ill, they ordered a home inspection that found mold throughout the home. Desperate and sick, the family fled to Grand Junction where Lydia’s parents live.
At first the family camped out in her parents’ living room; their belongings piled on the back porch.
Then the Nelsons learned about Homes for All Veterans, a program started in 2011 by the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Human Services, with a grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Based in Denver, Rocky Mountain Human Services is expanding its presence on the Western Slope and is hosting an open house at its new Grand Junction office 3 to 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, at the Center for Independence, 740 Gunnison Ave.
The Nelsons applied and qualified for the housing program which paid their deposit plus first and last months’ rent on an apartment on 25 1/2 Road.
“We needed a good, safe place to live, where we could give our kids a bath, cook a meal,” said Lydia Nelson, who served two tours in Iraq.
Mike Nelson, 37, found a security job, and Lydia, 33, is enrolled in a vocational rehabilitation program, studying environmental science and working as an intern at the Mesa County Landfill. They’ve since moved out of their upper floor apartment and into a mobile home they are purchasing.
Her boys, 3 and 2, “have a little yard to play in; the dog is happy,” Nelson said. “And it’s all thanks to the (Homes for All Veterans) program.”
Veteran Support Specialist “Lydia (DeLaRosa) has been like an angel for us,” Lydia Nelson said.
DeLaRosa, who has worked with RMHS for two years, was the Nelsons’ case manager and helped the family get back on their feet by connecting the Nelsons to services and funding to move into a home of their own.
“The program has been a major success,” helping veterans in eight West Slope counties, DeLaRosa said.
Last year 962 veteran families were served: 40 percent to prevent homelessness, and 60 percent to house homeless veterans and their families, said HAV program manager Col. Craig Schlattmann.
The organization works with a number of community organizations, housing voucher programs and local landlords to find long-term housing for veterans.
“We provide assistance with immediate and/or temporary shelter needs, and we look at underlying reasons (for homelessness) and work on that,” RMHS spokesperson Annie Davies said.
“Once they’re in a stable place we look at issues that may affect their ability to keep homes.”
Rocky Mountain Human Services additionally administers Operation TBI Freedom — a program that works with Iraq or Afghanistan war veterans with traumatic brain injuries.
Both programs work holistically with the entire family, Davies said.
Homes for All Veterans serves veterans throughout Colorado from offices in Denver and Colorado Springs, and now Grand Junction.
A ribbon-cutting, grand opening ceremony for the Grand Junction office will take place at 4 p.m. Oct. 24. Those present will include RMHS employees, DeLaRosa, Veterans Affairs representatives, business and nonprofit partners, and clients of Homes for All Veterans.
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