AllHealth Network, a mental health nonprofit with locations across the south metro region, recently unveiled a new outreach program to connect unhoused residents with mental care.
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Funded for five years through a grant from the Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness, or PATH, the nonprofit said it would be able to provide outreach in Arapahoe County cities such as Littleton, Englewood and Sheridan as well as all of Douglas County.
“What we know for our people that experience homelessness is that at the root of that there’s some type of mental health thing that has happened," said Cayla Steffy, a behavioral health provider for the nonprofit.
Mental health, Steffy said, presents a systemic issue for unhoused residents. A University of Denver study, which surveyed 121 people in the Littleton, Englewood and Sheridan area found that 30% said mental health issues were a reason they became homeless. The top five reasons, according to respondents, were all economic.
While AllHealth's PATH grant will not secure any direct funding for housing, Steffy said the nonprofit's outreach team helps connect area residents with social programs that can lead to housing, education and workforce training.
Shellene Martinez, a case manager for AllHealth, said staff can help navigate people through the bureaucratic process of applying for safety net programs such as SNAP (formally called food stamps) and vouchers for Section 8 housing, which is heavily government subsidized.
“What I’m finding is there’s a lot of hoops to jump through, there’s a lot of red tape even to get a free phone, even to get food stamps," Martinez said. “There’s lots of things that people go through when they’re just basically trying to survive."
The outreach team appears regularly at known safe spaces for the unhoused, Steffy said, such as GraceFull Cafe in Littleton, which began with the mission of letting customers pay what they can. Outreach also extends to streets where AllHealth staff can screen unhoused residents for mental health issues and substance use disorders and either provide them with treatment or refer them to another resource.
The program also makes use of what Steffy called peer support, which called a way to link unhoused residents with people who are formally homeless. This, she said, allows for greater trust and understanding.
“Peer support is such a bridge to getting someone connected to treatment," Steffy said.
Littleton City Manager Jim Becklenberg said he was confident the cities of Littleton, Englewood and Sheridan could “integrate PATH team resources” into their multi-year action plan to reduce homelessness in their region.
The three cities have been working together for years on a multi-pronged approach to address homelessness, with their first year of implementing action items coming to a close.
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