By: Stephanie Spriggs, CIVHC Program Assistant
Originally featured in the December Voices on Value.
One night in early November, Denver weather broke a temperature record by plummeting to 13 degrees below zero. Winter is a deadly season for the homeless population, yet through the efforts of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, the newly opened Stout Street Health Center, and the adjoining Renaissance Stout Street Lofts, this year fewer people will be on the street.
The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless was founded in 1984 with the mission to “work collaboratively toward the prevention of homelessness and the creation of lasting solutions for homeless and at-risk families, children, and individuals throughout Colorado.” In the intervening years, it has grown to include several housing developments providing stable and quality homes for those in need, a mobile medical clinic serving the at-risk population, and most recently, the Stout Street Health Center.
Opened in September of 2014, the Health Center replaced the Stout Street Clinic where the clinic’s needs had outgrown the available space and resources. Approximately 18,000 patients will be seen annually at the new Health Center, which integrates medical and mental health care, substance abuse treatment, dental and vision care, social services, and housing.
Many of the homeless population served gain access to health care coverage through Medicaid’s expansion of eligibility under the Affordable Care Act. The expansion directly contributed to the funding of the Health Center. Reimbursements by Medicaid allowed the facility to take shape and created 70 new, full-time, health care jobs in Denver. Additional funding came from public and private donors as well as the Colorado Health Foundation, Anschutz Foundation, Jay & Rose Phillips Foundation, and Caring for Colorado Foundation.
The adjoining Renaissance Stout Street Lofts ensure that 78 formerly homeless households will have a warm place to sleep at night. The units are targeted to the most vulnerable families and individuals with ongoing health and mental health needs, which can be addressed through the Health Center and on-site social services. The Lofts were built in compliance with guidelines established by Enterprise Green Communities® and are furnished with Energy Star® appliances.
The Lofts are the 17th housing development constructed by the Coalition to offer supportive and consistent housing for the homeless and low-income population. These communities are located near transit routes and are safe places for vulnerable individuals to heal and grow, taking advantage of the counseling, life-skills training, and employment assistance also provided by the Coalition.
Despite the best efforts of the Coalition, there is not enough housing to shelter all of Colorado’s disadvantaged families, adults, and children. Those that stay at drop-in centers and shelters can receive care through the Coalition’s Health Outreach Program (HOP). A mobile medical clinic, the HOP offers medical examinations, pre-and-post natal care, mental health evaluations, and diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic illnesses. The program was founded in 2003 and the caregivers on the HOP (a physician or nurse practitioner and a medical assistant) treated over 1,000 patients last year.
Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and the Stout Street Health Center are anticipated to significantly lower costs for emergency health care, detox, and fire and safety services. Already, the center is adding $70 million to the Denver economy through jobs and other indirect activities. This achievement was recognized nationally in a Commonwealth Fund profile on the Health Center and the Coalition as the Quality Matters feature in the October/November 2014 issue.
The first tenet of the Coalition’s Philosophy of Service is “Honoring the inherent dignity of those we serve, affirming their capabilities and fostering their hope that a better life is possible.” Colorado is privileged to have such a groundbreaking, innovative, and caring organization operating within its borders.