If you have visited the Santa Fe Art District recently, you may have seen the VOA’s newest location, the Daniels Veteran Service Center now open on Santa Fe Drive. This revolutionary collaboration is aimed at creating a one-stop shop to support veterans as they return to civilian life. The Center’s vision brings together education, employment support, counseling, basic needs assistance and legal services under one roof to help veterans in every capacity. Recently, VOA’s Veteran Services Center has reached the two-month mark from their grand opening. I asked Sr. Project Manager, Ian Fletcher, about the first 60 days open and what interesting things he’s taken note of so far…
- Tell me about the VOA Veteran Services Center. What is the mission behind it?
The mission of the VOA Veteran Services Center is to support Veterans and their families to survive, thrive and grow in the Denver community. We focus on providing a single location of resources where Veterans can access services like housing, VA benefits, public benefits, legal services, peer support, reintegration, and financial health. The intention is also to help coordinate service providers to collaborate and enhance the system of services for Veterans. These providers include Federal, State and local government agencies, and large to small nonprofits. Whether it is a student Veteran, a Veteran experiencing homelessness, or senior Veteran needing benefits, we can connect them with high quality services
- How have the first 60 days open gone?
First sixty days have been a whirlwind, finding our groove in facility procedures and walk-in client process. Now we are seeing a steady inflow of Veterans as more people are referred to the location. Getting setup with WiFi, printing, technology and access/security takes a good while before we were feeling fully operational. Then we’ve had different partners start at different times, so getting them to know about one another has been a priority. We just had a potluck where they got to connect and we’re planning our first shared space governing meeting next month. We had our dedication in August, with Governor Hickenlooper, funders and the VA Medical Center director speaking along with 200+ attendees.
- What are some goals you may have already accomplished in the first 60 days?
We have attracted new partner agencies who weren’t part of the original cohort. This has allowed us to really expand our opportunities for services. We have done significant outreach to community partners who are referring Veterans to our building. We have a solid group of volunteers who help manage our front desk and are still seeking peer navigators to help with clients. Our biggest success is when we have seen a Veteran in crisis come in and be connected with multiple providers in a short amount of time to address their needs.
- What are some things you wish you could have done differently or maybe an experience that you have learned from in the first 60 days open?
Our biggest lesson is the need for a dedicated building manager/community animator. During startup there is a lot of detail that goes into making the building operate smoothly and orientation around policy and procedures. Our Americorps VISTA Rachel has been very helpful in supporting these needs, but long-term it is clear we’ll need someone to manage the volume of tasks efficiently.