At one of Boulder’s affordable housing developments, the smallest apartment costs about $800 per month. As most of us know, you also need to put down a deposit on an apartment that is usually equivalent to the first and last month’s rent. Therefore, the first payment to get into an apartment would be around $2400. If you were homeless, working at a minimum wage job without a savings account, how do you think you’d come up with this kind of money for a place to live?
Affordable housing is one of the biggest hurdles to overcoming homelessness in Boulder. Lack of affordable housing is also a major cause of homelessness. As Bridge House Case Manager Heather explains it, “Boulder can’t really address the issue of homelessness until we address the issue of affordable housing.”
Bridge House doesn’t own or operate housing but we play a fundamental role in supporting homeless adults to stabilize and be ready for housing when it becomes available. One of the key ways that Bridge House helps its clients is through navigating the Section 8 housing voucher program. We help people understand how to access them and provide support during an often daunting process.
This year was very exciting because 25 new housing vouchers became available through a housing program for Veterans and a handful more became available through the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless CIRT program for the mentally ill. This, essentially, opened up the ability for 30 more long-term homeless people in the Boulder area to have access to housing. What’s most exciting about these programs is that they have been developed from a direct need and desire to understand and implement the most effective ways to combat chronic homelessness.
The VASH (VA Supportive Housing) program for Veterans was a great example of an effective program because it used agencies with intimate knowledge of Boulder’s homeless, like Bridge House, to refer individuals who had been chronically homeless and quickly moved them into market-rate housing with vouchers to pay for rent. This process is coupled with access to support through case management and serves as a model for how we hope to keep homeless individuals housed permanently.
At the end of the day, housing is the area that Bridge House clients and the homeless community struggle with the most and is the biggest obstacle in moving toward self-sufficiency. As Heather puts it, “You can help people work on their mental health or their addictions or their self esteem, but this is very difficult if they are living in the park or going from shelter to shelter for the rest of their lives, what do they have to work toward?”
Bridge House and our community partners are working to change this.