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Long Story Short

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Last winter, I visited a local homeless center and met several people used to life on the streets, including one who introduced himself as Ken Brown.

Drinking and related violence had cost him the prime of his life (and one of his eyes, in 1991), but he'd recently given up alcohol and found help to control depression and anxiety. And he was preparing for the first time ever to live in his own place, courtesy of Housing First, a program to provide subsidized apartments to chronic homeless community members wrestling with mental illness and substance abuse.

"I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired," said Brown, who seemed ready to give up his longtime nickname of "Patch."

But red tape and evaporating finances held things up for months. Brown's preparations easily could have turned to pessimism.

Instead, he's hung on. Today, he's still not into his apartment, but he's close. And if Homeward Pikes Peak's Bob Holmes — who earlier this month assumed control of Housing First — has his way, dozens more like Brown will start fresh with new apartments in the next few years.

There's a lot standing between that vision and reality (see story on p. 15) — as much as $250,000 in annual funding, for starters. But if Holmes can replace some bureaucratic sob stories with actual success stories, he may be on his way.

— Anthony Lane

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