Longmont Veterans Community Project Deploys Mobile Outreach Van
The Longmont Veterans Community Project launched a brand new outreach mobile unit on Wednesday. The van will connect homeless veterans in rural northern Colorado to resources such as transportation and temporary housing.
KUNC’s Beau Baker spoke with VCP Executive Director Jennifer Seybold about the mobile unit and efforts to help homeless veterans in our area.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Beau Baker: Jennifer, The Veterans Community Project started in Kansas City as a village of nearly 50 small houses for homeless veterans. Can you tell me how the organization got to Longmont?
Jennifer Seybold: We’ve really been operating here since 2020. There was a group of people here at Longmont tasked with looking at veteran homelessness in our community. What are the ways we could solve this problem?
Kevin Mulshine – he’s a developer and owner of HMS Development – was tasked with sort of looking at other community models. So he went to Kansas City and said, “I want to take this to Longmont.
What’s really cool is that Kevin put his money where his mouth is. He donated the land for our project and worked very closely with the city. So he gave us a little over two acres to build our little houses here in Longmont. Our village is not yet finished and construction is in progress.
But ever since, we’ve been serving veterans in the community through our outreach center on Main Street. And we have already been able to help more than 300 veterans in our community and permanently at Maison 40 even though we don’t have a village yet. So the work of our case managers is already having quite a significant impact in our community.
Beautiful : Longmont’s mini-houses are currently under construction. But this week, you launched this mobile outreach program that includes a fully accessible van at the ADA. What will this do for homeless veterans?
Jennifer: Yes, it’s a really exciting project. Many services are truly centralized in large urban spaces. And so when you’re in that area, there’s a lot more access. But many of our veterans don’t live in those communities. They live in much more rural areas. Often they don’t have transportation to even get to doctor’s appointments or things like that. And so it is extremely important to come where there is a need because a lot of people cannot come to where we are.
Beautiful : The van will launch in mountain and lowland communities like Gilpin, Boulder, Clear Creek and Weld counties. What will the mobile unit offer?
Jennifer: We see veterans from all over northern Colorado and because we are so spread out it can sometimes be difficult for people to get to where we are. This allows us to go to them. We can onboard someone for assistance at the time.
We can register them to have contact with a case manager. Or one of the things our case managers do best is simply connect people to services close to them. So make sure we do a very smooth transfer of that. Get an idea of what this person needs. We also carry supplies such as food and winter supplies. Basic things that will change seasonally as needed. But it gives us a chance to reach people who, first, may not know we exist and, second, may be too far away to come to the outreach center.
Beautiful : It really does seem to do a bit of everything. So this mobile unit is being paid for by a two-year grant that came out of last year’s state legislative session. It took some work to get started, including establishing a partnership between the Veterans Community Project and the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. In your experience, is it difficult to get funding for services for veterans in need?
Jennifer: It’s an interesting question, and I should probably say that we’re also a bit unique in how we define “veteran”. We don’t consider how long a person has been in service or what type of service, and we don’t care about their discharge status. It’s a bit different from some other organizations. This is certainly different from the eligibility requirements for VA services. So that makes our fundraising a bit more difficult simply because we don’t necessarily accept federal funding if there are conditions attached to it.
We’re getting more support from the state, and I’m really happy to see that the states are kind of downplaying the restrictions. But we want to make sure that any funding we take in doesn’t prevent us from serving any veteran who walks through the door, regardless of their release status. I think a lot of people don’t necessarily know that a lot of our veterans don’t get support services from VA and other government agencies.
I think there is a bit of a misconception about who qualifies for these services. It is estimated that more than 500,000 veterans are living on a non-honourable discharge status, meaning they would not qualify for these kinds of services, making programs like ours essential. And we really count on the public support for that.
Beautiful : It was Jennifer Seybold, executive director of the Longmont Veterans Community Project.
To learn more about the Vererans Community Project and its mobile unit – visit https://www.veteranscommunityproject.org/vcp-colorado
This story was produced by Maxine Speier of KUNC