After the Fort Lyon Correctional Facility was decommissioned in 2012, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) repurposed the facility as the Fort Lyon Supportive Residential Community to provide recovery-oriented transitional housing for homeless individuals. The program combines housing with counseling, educational, vocational and employment services for up to 300 homeless and formerly homeless persons from across Colorado, with an emphasis on serving homeless veterans.
The Community is located at the former Fort Lyon Veterans Affairs Hospital in Bent County, Colorado, and is the outcome of a vision to re-purpose the facility and to offer a supportive environment to homeless individuals across the state. State and local community leaders are working together to demonstrate the potential of this innovative model. Funding to establish and operate the Fort Lyon Supportive Residential Community is provided by DOLA, who contracts with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless to provide recovery-oriented supportive services, and with Bent County who manages the facility. Additional collaborative service providers include Otero Junior College, Lamar Community College, Southeast Mental Health Services, Prowers Medical Center and Valley-Wide Health Systems, Inc.
The program began in September 2013 with just 27 residents, and has grown exponentially over the last two years serving a total of more than 450 residents. Participation is voluntary, and every week people arrive at Fort Lyon by bus seeking help to overcome their cycle of homelessness. The participants are evaluated to ensure they demonstrate both the need and the desire to recover. Unlike traditional homeless shelters, Fort Lyon is a long drive from old habits; it provides a new kind of opportunity for people to get healthy, sober, and emotionally strong.
Residents fully engage in the overall operations of the campus including food services, facilities maintenance, grounds maintenance, housekeeping and waste water management—in conjunction with their daily participation in peer support groups. Educational and vocational opportunities are available through local colleges. Residents are also encouraged to participate in creative programs that help build support and community while assisting with recovery.
The ultimate goal of this program is for residents to recover from homelessness, find long-term housing stability, and reintegrate into their community of choice.