Stephen Hunter's new digs -- a refurbished motel room -- may be modest. But it beats sleeping in homeless shelters or under a bridge.
The telecom bust left Hunter, a former installation worker, without regular work beginning in 1999. Then, a year ago, he hurt his right hand and had to stop working altogether.
"It pretty much put me out in the streets," said Hunter, 50.
He spent numerous nights in shelters in Denver and Colorado Springs. Sometimes, he'd sleep outside in the cold. He wanted to rehabilitate his hand and get back to work -- but it's hard to pull yourself together when your primary worry is where you're going to sleep each night, he says. "I just wanted to get an opportunity to get myself back on track."
Earlier this year, Hunter applied for transitional housing at the Colorado House and Resource Center, a new program launched by the American Red Cross, the Rocky Mountain Community Land Trust and Partners in Housing.
The program, aimed at helping highly motivated homeless people become self-sufficient, offers individuals and families housing for up to two years in the former Embers motel downtown, at Wahsatch and Colorado avenues. On-site volunteers help teach residents life skills, such as personal budgeting and how to use computers. Residents must be free of any substance-abuse problems, and they must either work or go to school. They pay 30 percent of any income they might earn as rent.
It was just what Hunter needed. "I thought it would be great to have some kind of stability to pursue my goals."
Hunter would like to get back into the telecom business. He's working to upgrade his computer skills and hopes to be in school soon.
"I know what I want to do, and I know what it's going to take to get there," Hunter said. Without Colorado House, "I'm not sure what I'd be doing right now."
-- Terje Langeland
photo by Bruce Elliott
-- Colorado House is a recipient of a grant from the Independence Community Fund, a charitable arm of the Independent. This is the sixth in a series profiling this year's seven recipient organizations.