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Nonprofit helping homeless veterans buys 2 Westside apartments, tells current residents they'll need to move

ABOVE: Two apartment houses on Fontmore Street are now owned by the Colorado Veterans Resource Coalition. They are at 831 (right), with four units; and 903 (left), with six units.

Westside Pioneer photo

       The occupancy strategy is changing at side-by-side apartment houses at 831 and 903 Fontmore St., as a result of their purchase by the Colorado Veterans Resource Coalition (CVRC),
       Formerly places for renters at large, the 10 units are now earmarked for homeless veterans who may be seeking to overcome drug or mental problems.

Shown is the opening slide from a presentation about the services provided by the CVRC.
Courtesy of CVRC
       The goal of the nonprofit CVRC is to provide emergency shelter, counseling and other services to help vets in need. The Fontmore location was picked largely because it's near the new Department of Veterans Affairs clinic being built at Fillmore and Centennial (and due to open in August), according to Jay Magee, CVRC spokesperson. “It's roughly a mile from the clinic, with a bus stop right in front,” he pointed out.
       After the CVRC purchase in early March, the residents of the Fontmore apartments were informed that they would need to move out by October. A March 14 letter from Magee elaborated on the situation.
       The first of the CVRC occupants could be in place by July 1, Magee told the Westside Pioneer in an interview in late May. He added that it's possible one of the current tenants could stay because of being a disabled veteran.
       Earlier in May, the Pioneer had talked with elderly tenants in two of the Fontmore apartments. They said they were worried about their future - having received no offer of relocation help from CVRC at that time. A couple in one unit said they were disabled and on Social Security and didn't know where they could find a place with as low a rent or how they could even afford the move itself.
       However, when the Pioneer spoke with Magee (about two weeks later), he said the 14-year-old nonprofit entity is looking for ways to help such tenants.

JoAnn Norris, a current tenant at 903 Fontmore, said she was disappointed to learn from CVRC in March that she would have to move out by October. She said it hadn't been easy to find an affordable apartment on the Westside and she'd just recently moved in.
Westside Pioneer photo
       “We can't make people homeless just to bring in homeless veterans,” he commented,
       Also, he clarified, even though his March 14 letter stated that tenants with leases would “forfeit their deposits” if they left more than 30 days before their leases ran out, CVRC intends to be flexible in that regard. He said everyone should get their deposits back as long as the units are left in decent shape. In fact, he noted that the coalition is not concerned about superficial damage because each of the units will be fully renovated before being made available to the new tenants.
       CVRC now operates three adjacent houses on South Weber Street called the Crawford House. One is a 15-bed facility for those “undergoing mental health and alcohol/substance abuse treatment”; the other two houses each provide “five-bed transitional houses for up to 24 months of aftercare independent living treatment programs,” the website states.
       The CVRC "was organized in 2000 with representatives from local Veteran Service Organizations - VFW, NCOA, American Legion, MOAA, TREA, DAV, AMVETS, VA, etc.," according to the entity's website (cvrcforvets.org). The Crawford House was named in honor of William Crawford, a World War II Medal of Honor recipient.
       Applications for CVRC assistance are taken at the VA Homeless Programs Office at the current VA Clinic, 25 N. Spruce St. Veterans in need must have Honorable or General Under Honorable Conditions discharge, the CVRC website notes.
       Sponsors include the El Pomar Foundation, the Colorado Association of Realtors, Pikes Peak United Way and the Anschutz Family Foundation. Fundraising also is ongoing, and donations are sought.
       Other facts stated on its website are that the entity “is the only program of its kind in Colorado: a private, non-profit veterans' residential treatment facility [and] it has helped over 1,100 homeless veterans, of which 81 percent successfully completed their program requirements and moved into their own homes.”
       Plans are not yet finalized for the Fontmore apartments, but one differentiating feature is that the Crawford House housing consists of rooms only, meaning people need to share kitchen and bathrooms. Having apartments at Fontmore provides the option to bring in families with children, Magee said.
       In any case, there is a demand to find living accommodations for homeless vets. The CVRC website estimates that Colorado Springs has roughly 2,000 people on the streets, of whom 350 to 500 are veterans.
       And, with American soldiers still deployed in Afghanistan, “the homeless veteran demographic is not shrinking,” Magee said. The causes of their problems can be from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sometimes from “self-medicating,” he noted.
       The 831 Fontmore location is a fourplex in a 3,072-square-foot building. The apartments at 903 Fontmore have six units in a 4,680-square-foot building. Both were built in 1968 and had the same previous owner. The sale price was $575,000, according to the El Paso County Assessor's Office.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 6/1/14; Land: Development Issues)

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