Journey Home - a 30-unit permanent supportive housing project in Cañon City - seemed like an impossible dream. But sometimes those dreams can come true.
At the end of July local, state and federal officials joined investment and development partners to celebrate the grand opening of the first homeless housing complex built in a rural Colorado community.
Located at 250 Justice Center Road, Journey Home is a $7 million complex made up of 22 one-bedroom apartments and eight two-bedroom apartments.
Financed with equity raised from federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits awarded by Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, and 30 Project-based Housing Choice Vouchers provided by Colorado Department of Local Affairs’ Division of Housing and administered by the Upper Arkansas Area Council of Governments, Journey Home offers occupancy of all 30 units to households with annual incomes of less than 50 percent of area median income.
Though urban housing developments catered to the transitional housing needs of residents living well below the poverty line are not uncommon, the same cannot be said for rural counties and communities where such developments are not as common.
“Journey Home provides safe and supportive housing to families and individuals along with the caring and support of staff who are on site as families transition from homelessness to housing stability,” said Deidra “Dee Dee” Clement, Executive Director, Loaves and Fishes Ministries fo Fremont County, which along with the Department of Human Services, Sol Visa Health, and the Central Colorado Housing Authority helped bring the dream of homeless housing in Canon City to fruition.
Within 72 hours of opening in late June, each apartment had been leased. A team made up of community members created a wish list of items for each apartment so residents could have fully-furnished, amenable living spaces. Members of the community were also asked to adopt an apartment for $350 as a means to supply amenities like cookware and dishes.
Not only were all the apartments adopted in a matter of days, but also several community members donated items like coffee pots, computers, exercise equipment and artwork to help spruce up the area and welcome the new residents.
Journey Home is a tangible example of the Housing First model, which believes that once an individual has shelter he or she can focus on employment, mental issues or strengthening family ties. By filling Journey Home’s 30 units Loaves and Fishes, Canon City and the other contributing community partners have given those resident individuals and families the opportunity to do that.
Homelessness in Colorado
According to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), homelessness among individuals in Colorado rose 17.4 percent in Colorado from 2016 to 2017. In terms of numbers of people, Colorado’s 1,121 person increase from 2016 to 2017 made it the third largest numerical increase in the nation behind only California (15,096 people) and New York (2,075 people).
The most recent data released by HUD shows that on a single night Colorado had an estimated count of 10,940 homeless individuals - making up about 1 to 2.9 percent of the total homeless population in the nation.
Where Colorado has seen changes for the better amongst its homeless population is in terms of family homelessness where the state saw one of the largest decreases in population at 17.8 percent - down 731 people from 2016.
Where Colorado differs from much of the nation on homelessness is how spread out homelessness is in the state. California and New York see much of its homelessness concentrated in major cities, the balance of homelessness in Colorado - according to HUD - is spread outside of major hubs like Denver and Colorado Springs.