Volunteers of America Helps Youth Leave Homelessness and Addiction

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Tyler Wells is still getting used to the comforts of home: a hot shower when he wants it, a warm bed, a dog waiting at the door.

The 26-year-old struggled with drug addiction and homelessness in his youth after dropping out of Aurora High School in his senior year and being diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder – a mental health issue that includes symptoms of schizophrenia and mood disorder.

The young man has been in and out of rehab centers, homeless shelters and tents on the streets of Denver for years until a friend’s overdose provided him with the wake-up call he needed. . Wells has been sober since January 2, 2019, and found housing and rent assistance months later with help from Volunteers of America’s Continuing Supportive Housing Program.

“I now have the opportunity to return to a nice and comfortable place and that means it all,” Wells said. “It’s an incentive to find a good job, to stay sober, to keep doing what I’m doing.”

Volunteers of America, in addition to hunger relief services and other supports, offers housing programs for homeless youth in Colorado, said Lindi Sinton, the organization’s vice president of programs. .

The Youth Transition Program serves homeless youth between the ages of 18 and 24 for a period of up to two years. The program helps young people in need find housing where it makes sense to them – near family, jobs, or child care centers – run by landlords who work with Volunteers of America case managers, said Sinton.

America Volunteers

Address: 2660 Larimer St., Denver, CO 80205

In activity since: 1896

Number of employees: 378

Annual budget: $ 29.4 million

Number of clients served in 2020: 154,243

The program begins by paying a client’s rent in full and decreases payments by 25% over set intervals, allowing the youth to get back on their feet with the help of Volunteers of America to find employment, obtain medical support and learning life skills.

“We were all fortunate enough to fall and get up in our parents’ house, so we expect people to have a lot of challenges and give them many chances,” Sinton said. “It’s hard not to be successful in these programs.

Wells is involved in Volunteers of America’s Permanent Supportive Housing Program, which welcomes young people up to 25 years of age who meet criteria for long-term homelessness or disabling illness.

Clients of permanent supportive housing have a voucher that allows them to stay in their Volunteers of America housing situation for as long as they need with access to more intensive services, Sinton said. People in permanent supportive housing pay 30% of their income in rent and the rest is subsidized by the organization.

Volunteers of America serves approximately 20 to 30 young adults at a time through its short-term youth bridging program and can support 33 clients through the permanent supportive housing program.

“Housing is an important part, but certainly not the most important part when it comes to young people,” Sinton said. “The services we provide are really what drives success. “

Services are individualized based on the needs of the client, ranging from parenting skills and budgeting lessons to cooking lessons or counseling on understanding employers’ expectations, Sinton said.

In addition to his apartment in Federal Heights, Wells was associated with courses in addiction recovery and mental health support through the Volunteers of America.

“Sobriety is tough, but all the addiction takes you away, and sobriety gives you everyday,” Wells said. “It’s possible and rewarding to be sober. “

On Monday, Wells and Keynon Tann, associate director of youth programming for Volunteers of America, gathered around a computer at the organization’s Bannock Youth Center in Denver to research GED classes so Wells could complete his education, s ” enroll in college courses and work towards the career of your dreams. to become a video editor.

“I am preparing for success,” Wells said.

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