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As nation pays its respects on Veterans Day, data shows hundreds of veterans remain unhoused in Colorado

Data shows homelessness among veterans nationwide has improved over the past decade, but there's still plenty of work to do
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Posted at 5:10 PM, Nov 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-11 01:10:30-05

DENVER — As the nation pauses to thank them for their service, many veterans are still struggling, including hundreds who are unhoused in Colorado.

For many people, simply walking to their front door might not seem like a big deal. But for Dannell McNeil, Sr., it’s a blessing.

“I thank God every time I stick my key in the door,” said McNeil. “I went through the school of hard knocks for about seven years, had people that did me wrong, stripped me down to almost nothing, financially.”

During those seven years, the Air Force veteran was living everywhere and nowhere.

“Hotels, motels, sometimes on one of my kids' floors,” said McNeil.

He said he also lived in his car off and on.

It’s a story all too common.

Over 33,000 American veterans were experiencing homelessness in 2022, according to a report the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) submitted to Congress. Over 700 of those veterans live in Colorado.

But the trend has been improving.

Since 2010, when then-President Barack Obama announced a comprehensive federal plan to address homelessness, the number of unhoused veterans has been cut in half thanks to increased awareness as well as public and private investments.

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According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the number of veterans experiencing homelessness (green line) fell from 74,000 in 2010 to just over 33,000 in 2022. The number of veterans staying in shelters (blue line) and those who were unsheltered (gray line) also fell.

This past summer, the Biden-Harris Administration announced it was investing billions more to combat homelessness, including among veterans.

As McNeil traveled from location to location, staying anywhere he could, he vowed not to give up.

“Even though I don't have the uniform anymore, the Air Force is in my heart, and what they instilled in me was not to give up,” he said.

It finally paid off. After years of struggling and working multiple jobs, McNeil moved into his own apartment a few months ago at a transitional housing complex in Aurora, where other veterans live.

His 88-year-old father, Willie, who has experienced some health issues, was able to move in with him.

“I have a place now where he can recover, where he can relax,” said McNeil. “I help him with his medications every day. I feed him every day, I cook, I clean for my dad.”

McNeil said the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Human Services was able to help him find a home.

On this Veterans Day weekend, he’s counting his blessings to have a place to call home. He said one of his grandkids was able to pay him a visit recently.

“For me, that’s heaven,” he said.

Volunteers from Denver area Home Depot stores were at McNeil’s apartment complex on Thursday and Friday, teaming up with Community Solutions to beautify an outdoor space for the tenants.

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Volunteers with Denver area Home Depot stores beautify an outdoor space at a transitional housing facility in Aurora, where many veterans stay, including Dannell McNeil.

“We partner with organizations across the country throughout the year to give financially and sweat equity labor,” said Heather Nordstrom, a manager with Home Depot. “The end of our year focuses mainly on veterans. We want to wrap around the Veterans Day holiday to thank them for their service and just do projects to help in any way we can.”

Throughout the month of November, the Home Depot Foundation will complete hundreds of service projects across the country to honor veterans.

Since 2011, Home Depot says it has invested $475 million in veteran causes.

On Veterans Day, hundreds of veterans remain unhoused in Colorado

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