LAKEWOOD, Colo. — A new resource is available for people experiencing homelessness in Jefferson County.
RecoveryWorks, a nonprofit that helps people get back on their feet and into permanent housing, held an open house Thursday for its new navigation center, located at 8000 West Colfax Avenue in Lakewood.
About 75 to 100 unhoused people visit the navigation center each day, according to James Ginsburg, executive director of RecoveryWorks. The navigation center is in a 10,000-square-foot building that once housed a movie theater and motorcycle shop.
“It serves as a centralized location for anyone who's unhoused,” said James Ginsburg, executive director of RecoveryWorks.
The navigation center opened thanks to about $9 million in grants from the State of Colorado.
“It’s really a manifestation of the state’s vision to create rehousing infrastructure metro-wide,” said Ginsburg.
No appointments or referrals are necessary, and walk-ins are welcomed.
“It's a safe space,” said Ginsburg. “[You can] get access to emergency needs, food, clothing, shower, laundry services and then a whole array of services, including case management, mental health, primary care, dental care, I.D. acquisition, all with the intent of getting people from the street ultimately to permanent housing.”
For nearly three years, the nonprofit ran "a smaller version" of the center roughly 10 blocks from its new center. Ginsburg said the smaller facility is now a medical respite center for unhoused people who’ve recently been hospitalized.
“Instead of having to recuperate out on the street and often ending up back in the hospital, they can come to our medical respite center and heal there for a short period of time,” Ginsburg said.
When people visit the navigation center, they’re likely to run into Regina LeGron. Her life has been a challenge for the last several years.
“I came to Colorado about four years ago,” said LeGron. “I came from Texas. I've been through three states trying to get out of my situation.”
LeGron, who worked in the pharmaceutical industry for 25 years, said her life began to unravel when her identity was stolen following a series of home burglaries back in Texas.
“They stole all my credit cards, my pin numbers, and my credit score went from seven something to four something in six months. And that's actually what threw me on the streets,” said LeGron.
After a few years of being unhoused, LeGron learned about RecoveryWorks.
“They understand how hard it is, you know, to move every night from place to place because you have nowhere to go,” said LeGron.
RecoveryWorks also has a pre-employment program that helps people regain a sense of purpose and earn money. LeGron was hired as head of housekeeping at the navigation center.
“I’m very, very grateful,” said LeGron.
Ginsburg said they work with other employers to help people find long-term employment.
After living in a motel with her husband for the last three months, LeGron said she has saved enough money to help them get their own apartment, which they plan to move into this week.
“We're going in there with nothing. It's gonna be a new beginning for us,” said LeGron.
In Jefferson County, 854 people were experiencing homelessness at the beginning of 2023, which represents a 73% increase from the previous year, according to the annual Point in Time (PIT) Count. The PIT Count is a snapshot of the number of people experiencing homelessness on a single night.
Experts say while the PIT Count is a valuable tool, it likely underestimates the true number of people experiencing homelessness. The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless estimates between 10,000 and 53,000 people in Colorado experienced homelessness last year. The numbers vary greatly because of the many factors around homelessness and how people are counted.
Back at the navigation center, the staff and volunteers are committed to reducing homelessness person by person.
If you're interested in helping RecoveryWorks' mission, text "RecoveryWorks" (all one word) to 844-844-6844. You can also visit their website for more information.