With the cut of a ribbon, The Home Front Cares celebrated new office space and fresh leadership that is exploring ways to tackle the growing demand of struggling veterans in Colorado Springs.
The nonprofit’s new home is not far from the old, one floor up in the same building off North Circle Drive. But the June 22 ribbon cutting ceremony signifies a shift in focus as the organization looks to the future.
“This expansion is important for Home Front Cares to be able to continue growing the service they provide to veterans and their families,” said Dirk Draper, the CEO of the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce.
Home Front is known for providing one-time financial assistance for troops and veterans struggling to cover living expenses — housing costs, utilities and transportation.
The emergency money provided by the nonprofit “is a vital need for people who have served our country and served our community,” Draper said.
Home Front began as an all-volunteer initiative in 2004. Started by a pair of retired Air Force colonels, Bob Carlone and Joe Henjum, the nonprofit handed military families $34,000 of aid in the first 12 months.
By 2018, more than $360,000 went to 365 military and veteran families — 1,000 people, half of which were children, said Shawn Kelly, Home Front’s new executive director.
But Kelly worries that the support has become too niche.
“Fifteen years ago, we were primarily supporting soldiers who were deployed from Colorado Springs,” he said. “Most of our assets now involve helping veterans with housing issues. I don’t want our focus to become so narrow that we are only helping with this one issue.”
Home Front will continue providing gap funding for veterans in need, but the way in which the money is distributed might have to change, Kelly said.
“If you look at the past five years, the need is increasing but our operational budget has remained the same,” he said. “When there is an increasing demand, but your revenue remains the same, you have to start to pick and choose.”
Developing a selection process is difficult for an organization that wants to help as many veterans as possible. But Kelly has a plan: collecting data.
Using follow-up phone calls and surveys from veterans the organization helped in the past, Kelly hopes to piece together an objective way to pick which veterans are helped in the future.
“Who is a good bet? We want them to have long-term success. This grant will actually get them into a better spot,” Kelly said.
“Making sure that veterans are stable, successful and productive, that is the long-term success we need.”