Early in the morning of Oct. 5, about a dozen members of Lakewood Elk’s Veteran’s Service Committee gathered in their lodge’s basement to do what they do best — help veterans.
This time, the Elks were helping 25 homeless veterans who will be moving in to the newly opened 40 West Residences get on their feet in their new homes.
“We’re making welcome home kits for these vets,” said Carrie Mesch, exalted ruler of the lodge. “This is important work, and we’re proud to do it.”
Volunteers purchased a wide range of items, from silverware, cookware and pizza pans to shampoo, bedding, and shower curtains. The lodge is reimbursed by the Elk’s national branch for the purchases, which will be given to the veterans free of charge.
It was jovial atmosphere as volunteers made sure every box had all the right items, with lots of laughs and jokes. Chalk it up to the positive feeling of helping people.
“As long as there are veterans, we’ll never forget or stop helping,” said Jim Vincent, co-chair of Colorado Elk’s Association Veteran’s service committee. “There’s a peace of mind that comes with having what you need to start your life, and we want to help provide that.”
West Colfax Avenue has been in the midst of a much trumpeted renaissance for several years now, but the east end of the avenue, near Sheridan Boulevard, hasn't seen the same attention.
Chad Mitchell, executive vice president west of FirstBank, remembers this well, especially in light of the newly opened 40 West Residences.
"I think about what used to be here, just a rundown lot," he explained. "It was overrun with bushes and the building was falling apart. So we're proud to be part of what it has become."
Archway Housing and Services' 40 West Residences, located at 5830 W. Colfax Ave., celebrated its opening on Oct. 5, and is an affordable housing project in an area that has mainly seen market rate or luxury apartments be approved.
"These are incredibly tough times to be doing affordable housing, so to bring this forward is a big step," said Mary Anderies, president of Archway's board of directors. "We're hoping this kind of housing will turn around the Colfax corridor."
The project started in 2012 when Archway purchased the land, and spent the ensuing five years working to build the four-story, 46,663 square-foot building. The cost of the project was about 14 million, which Archway was able to raise with tax credits from the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA) and thanks to investments from the National Equity Fund. Relationships with BBVA Compass, FirstBank, Mile High Community Loan and Metro West Housing Solutions, among others, helped the project cross the finish line.
"These developments are so difficult because they get a lot of pushback," said Cris White, executive director and CEO of CHFA. "Too often when you see these kinds of projects, people use words like 'sustainable,' 'attainable,' or 'workforce," housing. But we make sure to use affordable, because that's what it should be."
The 40 West Residences provides 54 one-bedroom apartments and six two-bedrooms, but what makes the project particularly special is who 25 of the residents will be — homeless veterans.
Thanks to a partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Colorado Division of Housing, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, vouchers were provided to these veterans, who will also have access to services from the Jefferson Center for Mental Health, VA-Eastern, and Rocky Mountain Human Services.
"As a result of access to housing, people see an improvement in mental and physical health, employment, and so many other areas," said Kristen Thome, with the Jefferson Center. "The worst thing a person can hear is there are no good housing options, so we're very excited to be able to say, Jeffco has a new option."
Members of the Lakewood Elks' Veteran's Service Committee also prepared move-in boxes, filled with all the items needed to make a house a home, to donate to the veterans.
Lakewood Mayor Adam Paul said this kind of housing project is vital to both Lakewood as a community, and veterans in particular. And Maddie Nichols, co-chair of the nearby Two Creeks Neighborhood Association, said the new building is a good sign for the area.
"This is a far cry from what used to be here," she said. "I've seen the area go down the tubes over the years, and now I'm glad to see it coming back up."
Community leaders hope this will be the start of a trend to providing a roof for those most in need of it, according to White.
"No matter what your income is, there should be housing stock for you."
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