A new apartment building in Denver, Colorado was built to specifically house men and women who have struggled with homelessness, and been in and out of jail, for years.
This apartment building, the Sanderson Apartments, was designed by the Mental Health Center of Denver. To find its residents, who were selected and offered residence rather than having them apply, the Urban Institute in Washington D.C., created a list of 4,000 homeless individuals who had been marked as “transient,” coming in and out of jail for crimes mostly related to their homelessness, such as illegal camping, trespassing or public intoxication. From those 4,000 names, 187 were randomly sent to the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, and 87 were sent to the Mental Health Center of Denver.
Between those two agencies, 153 of the 274 people have been found, and given various housing options, including the Sanderson Apartments.
These apartments are unlike any other; their layouts are open format, well lit and welcoming, encouraging a warm environment that will help rehabilitate these individuals who, it has been found, struggle with a variety of mental health problems. These include a unique Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that is believed to be linked to their time living on the streets.
The open layout is meant to combat the feeling of both being on the streets, and being in a homeless shelter, where cots are crowded. This is meant to ease the minds of those who have been assaulted, or are struggling with unrelated trauma that keeps them hyper aware. Each resident is given their own room with a window to the shared living room space, so they can always feel aware of their surroundings. Bathrooms have locks on their doors, so residents can feel secure in their privacy. The building is also equipped with security officers, and “residential counselors” who are able to answer questions related to topics like cooking, or disputes between neighbors. Caseworkers are also available to direct residents to the Mental Health Center when they want to discuss mental health or substance abuse treatment.
Carl Clark, president of the Mental Health Center of Denver, said of the initiative: “It’s really hard to get well if you don’t have a place to live” (Brown 2017, p.18). The Sanderson Apartments are meant to be a foundation for a process towards wellness, giving these people, at the very least, a safe, comfortable space from which to move forward in their lives, rather than move from temporary shelter to temporary shelter with little time or resources to devote to anything else.
The funding for this project “comes from the ‘Denver social impact bond’, in which private companies and philanthropists loaned the money to the mental health center and the homeless coalition to spend as rent subsidies and treatment for residents” (Brown 2017, p.12). According to Tyler Jaeckel, government innovations fellow for Denver, the city is to pay the money back to the bond “if the program succeeds in providing stabilized housing and reducing public costs through decreased arrests, jail time, and detox and emergency-room visits” (Brown 2017, p.13).
Rent in Sanderson is income based, and there are no restrictions on drugs or alcohol in private units, as well as on the time residents can spend there. It is a safe space for those who have struggled with homelessness to feel welcomed into society and treated with acceptance and patience, rather than undue harshness.
For more on this topic please read, “Denver’s new apartment building caters to homeless who have been traumatized after years on the streets.”
Brown, J. (2017, August 25). Denver’s new apartment building caters to homeless who have been traumatized after years on the streets. Retrieved August 26, 2017, from http://www.denverpost.com/2017/08/25/denver-trauma-informed-apartments-homeless/