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Nonprofit looks at ways to improve housing options for those in need

Navigator will help people search for affordable units, appeal denials
Housing Solutions for the Southwest aims to improve residents’ health by providing stable, affordable housing.

More affordable housing, professional help finding affordable housing and more financial assistance for those at risk of losing their housing could help more residents find homes or stay in them.

These steps are key to a Durango nonprofit’s new Housing as Health Initiative.

Without stable affordable housing, it is difficult for people to address other needs in their lives such as cooking healthy meals and seeking health care, said Brigid Korce, program development director for Housing Solutions for the Southwest, a nonprofit that offers housing assistance.

Thousands of people come to the nonprofit each year seeking help with affordable housing. The new initiative is meant to better serve more clients.

Housing Solutions hopes to track how stable housing improves the health of residents by working with medical providers, Korce said.

“We take the most vulnerable folks and work with them first to obtain housing,” Korce said.

Enterprise Community Partners, a national nonprofit, provided $50,000 and the Colorado Health Foundation provided $88,000 to fund the initiative over two years.

“(Housing) just is the root of health for many residents, and it’s a focus area of the foundation,” said Jaclyn Lensen, a spokeswoman for the foundation.

As part of the initiative, Housing Solutions plans to hire a new navigator to help more people in need understand what housing options are available and search for housing, Korce said. The navigator could also help clients appeal decisions of affordable housing providers if they are denied housing.

Nearly 100 percent of Housing Solutions’ clients who receive help from a case manager are successful finding housing within 60 days. However, residents who qualify for affordable housing who search on their own have far more difficulty finding a home, she said.

“It can become daunting to someone to contact multiple landlords if they aren’t familiar with that whole process,” said Housing Solutions Executive Director Elizabeth Salkind.

The nonprofit also plans to provide between $10,000 and $20,000 per year to the Community Emergency Assistance Coalition to help those at risk of losing their housing as a result of an injury, illness or disability, she said.

About 20 to 25 percent of those coming to CEAC for assistance fit into that category, she said.

Housing Solutions is also trying to expand the number of affordable units available to those who are homeless and disabled by building 40 new housing units near other social service offerings on the west side of town, Korce said.

The new housing would serve those who are homeless and disabled and provide medical services to residents on site, she said.

The nonprofit plans to apply for tax credits that would fund construction of the housing in June.

mshinn@durangoherald.com

If you go

Housing Solutions for the Southwest will be hosting two meetings Thursday, one at 1:30 p.m. and the other at 5:30 p.m., at Manna, 1100 Avenida del Sol, to discuss a new affordable housing project planned for Avenida del Sol.

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