The Colorado Springs Gazette

Freedom Springs celebrates 3 years

Housing complex dedicated to supporting at-risk and formerly homeless veterans


AColorado Springs housing complex dedicated to supporting at-risk and formerly homeless veterans is celebrating its third year of existence.

Freedom Springs, located at 734 Western Drive on the east side of the city, opened in 2020 with an aim toward housing and providing a variety of services to veterans and their families. On Monday, team members from Volunteers of America Colorado, the Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the Vecino development group joined dozens of previously unhoused veterans for an open house and anniversary celebration.

“We’re here to help our former service members make the transition from homelessness to sustainability,” said regional manager Brenna Baros.

For some veterans, the transition is nearly instantaneous, but for others, it can take months, or even years, Baros said. Placing a roof over their heads is just the beginning. Many of the residents are dealing with mental health issues, substance abuse disorders and other concerns.

The facility has on-site case managers who routinely check on the residents, help with budgeting, harm reduction and various other needs, officials said. A full-time VA staff member has an office in the building as well.

“Knowing they have a safe place to live, and individuals who are willing to work with them, makes a world of difference in many of their lives,” Baros said. “We don’t force change on anybody. They come to us and tell us the changes they want to make, and we break down those barriers, make them into smaller, more achievable goals so they don’t seem overwhelming.”

“We take down the barriers, but we expect (the veterans) to do the work,” said Dave Schunk, president and CEO of Volunteers of America Colorado. “That’s an important part of what we do here.”

Residents are required to put 30% of their income toward rent, officials said. Some formerly homeless individuals, still struggling after years of being unhoused, have trouble returning to a regular rent payment schedule. The Freedom Springs team serves as a firm, but forgiving, landlord.

“Part of what these veterans are doing, while they live here, is building up a rental history,” said community manager John Pettigrew. “If you have a history of nonpayment of rent, or you have an eviction on your record, it’s hard to rent a place somewhere else.”

Freedom Springs staff members also

work to help residents reconnect with families from whom they have become estranged.

“We had one resident whose family thought he was dead,” said Heather Bradley-geary of The Vecino Group. “The team put him together with his family, and they began to reconnect.”

The long-range goal, officials said, is to give veterans a sense of stability and community, help them build a solid rental history and eventually move on to their own homes.

“That’s what I call ‘graduating,’” Pettigrew said. “It’s a great thing to see.”

Doug Olig, a Navy veteran and retired bricklayer, and his wife Anna, a former business owner, found themselves living under a tent on the south end of the city before they discovered Freedom Springs.

“This place changed our lives,” Anna said. “The services they provide are absolutely wonderful. I see a therapist once a week. My husband has a physician that comes here to provide care. Because of Freedom Springs, we have a home.”

“(Freedom Springs) has been a godsend for us,” said Doug, who received assistance with substance abuse issues. “They’ve helped me stay clean and opened new doors for us.”

On Monday afternoon, team members interacted with residents while they enjoyed a barbecue lunch. A handful of people shot hoops on an outdoor basketball court. Veterans laughed as they shared stories. Schunk took it all in with a smile.

“It’s satisfying when you see these veterans become empowered, when you see their dignity return,” he said. “That’s definitely worth celebrating.”





The Gazette, Colorado Springs