Denver wants to be the largest American city without veterans living on the streets

Denver Mayor Mike Johnston said he wants to make Denver the largest city in the country without veterans living on the streets.

Johnston says that following people who are homeless in the Mile High City and in partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Denver Department of Housing Stability, the city has identified the 52 homeless veterans and plans to provide housing.

“We believe this will allow us to house all 52 veterans who we know are still experiencing unsheltered homelessness before the end of this year,” he said at a news conference Monday. “We will be the leading American city to ensure that no veteran who has served this country sleeps outside on the streets of Denver.”

Johnston says his government has taken 1,500 people off the streets since taking office in July 2023. In the Denver metro area, Colorado Springs, Pueblo and eastern Colorado, 752 veterans were taken off the streets in 2023, said Amir Farooqi, interim director and CEO of the Eastern Department of Veterans Affairs US Department of Veterans Affairs. Colorado VA Healthcare System.

Johnston said his goal for homeless veterans is “functionally zero.”

“Functional zero means that every month there are more exits for unsheltered veterans in housing than there are people currently experiencing or entering homelessness,” he said.

The effort will use U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (or HUD-VASH) vouchers provided through the Denver Housing Authority and the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, the city said in a statement .

Jamie Rife, executive director of Denver’s Department of Housing Stability, says 230 veterans are currently in city-run congregate shelters and 30 of the 52 veterans identified by Johnston’s office are currently looking for housing. She said the plan to get the remaining veterans off the streets includes working more closely with the VA and volunteer organizations to connect veterans with available housing or shelters.

“We will work together to maximize our current housing resources for veterans, and ensure we bring new units online so we can house all veterans experiencing unsheltered homelessness,” she said at Monday’s news conference.

Rife further said Volunteers of America Colorado will increase its housing efforts through the group’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families program. She also said the city will work with the nonprofit Community Solutions to get veterans into some of that organization’s 400 units in Denver.

Johnston said the focus on these veterans will be like getting other people out of unsheltered homelessness, connected to the resources they need and ultimately into permanent housing.

Terese Howard, an organizer with Housekeys Action Network Denver, says the city’s existing efforts are inadequate and unstable.

“1,500 people are in non-congregate shelters, not housing. There is no stability and you can be kicked out on a whim,” Howard told CBS News Colorado.

The Department of Housing Stability acknowledged this but did not respond to a request for comment. The mayor and aldermen did not respond to an email on Monday afternoon.

You can watch Monday’s entire press conference here:

Plans Announced by Denver Mayor to Help All Homeless Veterans: Watch the Press Conference