Everyone deserves a place to call home. At Wayfair, we’re partnering with Community Solutions to help make this possible. Here, we talk with nonprofit director DeeDee Clement on ending veteran homelessness in Fremont County, Colorado.
South of Denver in rural Fremont County Colorado**, DeeDee Clement is executive director of Loaves & Fishes Ministries, a community lifeline with a small team providing food, shelter, and clothing and working hard to put an end to homelessness in the area. A veteran herself with a lifelong dedication to nonprofit work, DeeDee has spent 20 years with the organization. Since partnering with Community Solutions, she or someone on the Built for Zero team knows every person who is experiencing homelessness in the county by name.
Here she talks with us about a proud milestone, looks ahead, and tells how one shelf can make all the difference.
Wayfair: Your team recently worked with Community Solutions to end homelessness for veterans in Fremont County — how were you able to do it?
DC: We’ve been working on homelessness for years, and we just weren’t making a dent. The only good data we had came annually, and it was outdated within days. Working with Community Solutions gave us hope and clear next steps. We started with veterans and learned so much. We have great data now — I can tell you how many people are experiencing homelessness today. We have a robust outreach team gathering information that consists of over 30 local organizations who meet and talk about each individual. We know their story and help them identify the next step: Do they need to get an ID, need medical help, or do they just need a house? With this approach, we’ve been able to move people off the streets, into housing.
Wayfair: What an incredible milestone — can you describe the impact?
DC: Veterans don’t usually brag about themselves. They see it as an honor to serve, and many don’t want assistance. But whatever we can do to make sure our veterans have a safe place to live – that’s something we owe them. I’m extremely proud of the work that has happened here.
One veteran we worked with had been homeless for many years. His health started changing as he got older, and winters were hard for him. He just wept when he went into his apartment. And he started collecting things — the things he collected didn’t necessarily have a story behind them, it’s just the fact that he can. He can buy a little trinket because it intrigues him, take it home, and put it on a shelf. He’s never been able to do that before. He didn’t have a place to store anything. He kept all of his belongings in a backpack. Having a home really changes everything.
Wayfair: What are you focused on now?
DC: We’re still working on our veteran population, and we’re also focusing on chronic homelessness — folks who have been homeless for a year or longer, or who have had multiple times of homelessness in the last three years. We want to end chronic homelessness in the county by next summer. And our county just hired an outreach worker to focus on families and children experiencing homelessness.
Wayfair: With all of this progress, what’s ahead for Fremont County?
DC: My hope is that lives will be changed and that ultimately, the next generations in these families will never experience homelessness. That the cycle of homelessness and poverty will be broken.
**Fremont County is one of 89 communities in the U.S. working to end homelessness with Built for Zero, an initiative of Community Solutions.