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Homeless veterans measure advances in Colorado legislature

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Eric Galatas

(Colorado News Connection) A bill making its way through the Colorado Legislature would make it a lot harder for landlords and home sellers to discriminate against military veterans.

Cathy Alderman, chief communications and public policy officer at the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, said House Bill 1102 would still allow preferences to be given for new housing construction and vouchers for veterans.

She contended the past few years have made it clear investing in veterans pays off.

"You can reduce it significantly," Alderman asserted. "I think everybody can agree that people who have served this country deserve at the very least basic access to rentals or homeownership opportunities, and probably even some kind of enhanced access."

At least one in 10 people experiencing homelessness has served in the armed forces. Veterans frequently face housing discrimination due to stereotypes, including substance abuse and mental illness.

Alderman said access to housing is critical for struggling veterans to recover. The bill, which would add veterans as a protected group under the Colorado Fair Housing Act, has cleared the House and now moves to the Senate.

A separate measure aims to encourage more investment from the private sector. House Bill 1083 would provide a 25% tax credit for individuals who make donations to nonprofits, including Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, providing housing, shelter and services for people experiencing homelessness in urban areas. The credit would be 30% in rural communities.

"And that's because our rural areas have traditionally had significant barriers to accessing funding, resources," Alderman explained. "They don't have a lot of government land that can be donated for these types of projects. And so we think that the bump to 30% in our rural, distressed areas is appropriate."

Alderman believes the two measures, combined with Gov. Jared Polis' proposal to invest federal relief funds into homelessness resolution are key tools for addressing the state's homeless crisis.

"To making sure that we are getting more people into safe spaces and into housing," Alderman urged. "And that it aligns really nicely with investments in affordable housing coming from the federal government, and investments in a homelessness resolution as proposed by the governor."