GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – Living on the streets is always dangerous. In fact, according to a study published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the homeless population’s average life expectancy is about 17 years shorter than people who have houses.
And because people who are homeless are more prone to infectious and chronic illnesses, the danger is even higher during a pandemic.
That’s why Karis, Inc. created a program specifically to help adults who are homeless.
Part of this program includes housing people who are at high risk of poor outcomes if they contract the Coronavirus. “It’s really a case by case scenario, a combination of underlying health concerns and other factors that may come into play because they are houseless,” says Mary Clayton, the Adult Housing Navigator at Karis, Inc.
One housing facility is called the Victoria house. The other is the American Lutheran Church. Vulnerable people are referred to the house by other organizations advocating for homeless people. Currently, a combined 15 people are staying in the two facilities and they will stay there until the pandemic eases up.
Case managers with Karis work with the residents to connect them to resources that they need like obtaining IDs, getting healthcare, and reaching their long-term housing goals.
“A lot of these people maybe don’t know what’s available to them, or who to contact to get an ID they need, or to get signed up for a housing voucher, or even get a primary health physician,” says Clayton.
But ultimately representatives of Karis say these are only temporary solutions to a major problem, and that homelessness in the Grand valley needs to be addressed at the roots, which is the lack of affordable housing.
“It certainly helps when we get people to resources, we help vets realize there are resources for them, and it certainly helps when we get people on SSI (Supplemental Security Income). But always we are confronted with the fact that there’s a lack of inventory here, and there is nationwide. And that’s the fundamental problem here,” says John Mok-Lamme, the Executive Director of Karis, Inc.