DENVER (KDVR) – A medium-sized Christmas tree, decorated with shiny garland, fills the edge of Elle Blandin’s Denver living room this year. Her 9-year-old son has been enjoying shaking the wrapped presents beneath it to guess what might be inside of them.
“I’m very happy, and I know my son is happy,” 31-year-old Blandin said. “We don’t share a room anymore.”
Blandin is one of 576 people who benefited from a City of Denver goal to move at least 200 people experiencing homelessness into stable housing within the span of 100 days, starting in September and ending in early December.
“I was jumping for joy. I was just extremely ecstatic and excited and relieved to finally have a space for me and my family,” she said.
Prior to her October move into Denver’s Globeville neighborhood, Blandin said she had been trying to escape a “pretty domestically violent situation.”
“I was … couch surfing. Kind of, at one point, in my car a little bit … I was going to resource centers and day shelters a lot for just daily necessities like showers and things like that,” Blandin said.
She said she was having a hard time finding her footing and financial support.
Around the same time, Denver’s Department of Housing Stability was launching a “housing surge” project in which the city worked with housing partners and service providers to expedite the process of moving people into stable homes quickly.
The city was able to expedite the experience for hundreds of people from 340 different households because had access to 190 federal emergency housing vouchers provided through the American Rescue Plan Act.
“We wanted to collaborate and really focus our efforts together on: ‘How can we do this right now? How can we improve our techniques? And how can we get this so that as many people are home for the holidays as possible?” Britta Fisher, Denver’s chief housing officer and executive director of the Department of Housing Stability said.
“It has been so clear that home is foundational to health, and so, right now, at this time, where people want to be home and want to be with their loved ones, it is so meaningful to see people at ease, at home, and housed under a roof as they celebrate holidays this year,” she said.
Blandin said she feels empowered by the experience.
“I feel warm, and I feel confident in myself in the new year – what I have an opportunity to bring into the new year – now that I have just a stable place to live and am able to provide for my family,” she said.
She said she is working on her mental health and wellness and planning out a new career path in medical billing and coding.