by Cat Galley – Research Coordinator
As we have seen in the previous weeks, there are many causes to homelessness, substance abuse, trauma, an unstable household, and mental illness. In Denver, 56% of the homeless population have one thing in common, mental illness. Though others are prevalent, post-traumatic stress disorder is seen in many homeless individuals. This is due to the constant sleeping outside, harassment, childhood trauma, and general instability that plagues the life of someone on the streets. Without proper care, many individuals with PTSD turn to drugs or alcohol to cope.
How is Denver combating mental illness within the homeless population?
The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless is working to place homeless individuals in housing. Though this is not the end all solution, this is an important first step for the chronically homeless. This organization is going through the streets, jails, and hospitals to put these individuals in special housing. This apartment complex houses 210 chronically homeless individuals with mental illness. This new building housing the homeless is called the Sanderson Apartments. This complex has a trauma informed design. Sunlight shines in and the doors do not shut. These individuals are in a place of comfort and support.
How did these individuals get chosen?
The individuals that are to live in the Sanderson Apartments did not make the decision to live there themselves. Researchers at the Urban Institute in Washington D.C. shuffled through thousands of “transients”. The list was narrowed down and the final decision on who would be living at these apartments was made by the Mental Health Center of Denver and the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. These individuals will receive treatments while living in these apartments and researchers will track the progress.
Why is this housing important?
Many homeless individuals are unable to obtain medications for their mental illness and having a stable place to call home is essential. Also, “Denver taxpayers spend an estimated $7 million each year to cover 14,000 days in jail, 2,200 detox visits, 1,500 arrests, and 500 emergency-room visits for 250 chronically homeless people.” The Sanderson Apartments are to house around 250 individuals. This housing first idea is a vital first step to not only saving tax payers money but saving lives. These apartments and the support from the Mental Health Center of Denver and Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, hopefully, will keep these individuals off the streets and focusing on their mental health and futures.