Valor on the Fax is a 72-unit trauma-informed residence focused on providing medical and mental services for individuals with brain injuries and chronic homelessness. The community opened in May this year.
“Valor on the Fax was created to help address some of our biggest housing challenges that we have in the Denver Metro area,” said Jeff Martinez of Brothers Redevelopment.
Brothers Redevelopment and the Brain Injury Alliance are working to provide permanent housing that offers individuals the assistance needed to face the effects of their brain injury.
“We learned that a lot of the people who are unhoused today have had a brain injury,” Martinez said. “A lot of individuals who have been in jail or in corrections have experienced a brain injury.”
Valor on the Fax helps residents with brain injuries transition into living in a community-based environment through a trauma-informed design. Kate Kerkmans, president and chief executive officer of the Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado, said the design has a purpose. The building’s lighting is lowered and softer colors are used to avoid harming residents. The apartment doors open at a 40-degree angle to help avoid triggering an individual.
“They open their doors, they can see who’s coming, they can see if there’s danger ahead. Whether they’re safe or not. Folks who have been living unstably housed for a long time have that real sense of fear about being able to see their surroundings and know what’s coming and feel sort of protected,” Kerkmans said.
Grant Williams, community manager for Valor on the Fax, explained that the closets are specifically placed in front of residents’ beds and do not have doors. This is done so the residents are in eye-sight of all of their belongings.
“They don’t like to set their belongings down. If they do set them down, they certainly don’t like to keep their belongings out of view because someone can steal them quite easily,” Williams said.
The design of Valor on the Fax is supposed to help transition individuals back into living in a safe, stable and secure environment. Williams said the transition from unhoused to housed can be unsettling.
“I have a number of tenants that I signed their lease three months ago [and] I have never seen them since, because they just cannot handle living in an apartment. As strange as that might sound, it’s traumatic. It’s a huge change. While living on the streets was traumatic, this is such a change that is also traumatic,” Williams said.
The Brain Injury Alliance offers resources and providers to help create a more effective and comfortable living environment for its residents. Individuals can expect to find classes like art and music therapy or creative writing and a variety of grief and trauma groups.
“We provide resource navigation, mental health classes and workshops. We have adaptive recreation programs, we have a peer mentorship program. We have support groups still building. We have services for school-aged kids to help them interact better with the public school system,” Kerkmans said.
She further elaborated on the hands-on approach staff members take to help residents with their daily tasks and responsibilities. Kerkmans emphasized that The Brain Injury Alliance has employees at Valor on the Fax at all times.
“Our staff, our certified brain injury specialists know what the struggles are, so helping folks with common conditions like memory loss, trouble with initiation, organization and keeping appointments together, interpersonal skills and emotional regulation, those sorts of things. So we have staff there all the time that can help people just with a really basic in and out of daily life and help them be successful and stay housed,” Kerkmans said.
Even with these resources offered, the community is not an automatic cure for someone’s traumas and struggles. While having a trauma-informed building design and staff helps create a safe environment, residents still face many challenges.
“Some days they just can’t get up and get dressed. They can’t. They can’t figure out where their pants go, which shoe goes on what foot and that may sound silly, but it’s it is the reality,” Williams said.
Williams described an encounter he had with a resident who struggles daily because of her brain injury.
“Two weeks ago, I was working in my office and a tenant walked in and started telling me how she has a brain injury and how she doesn’t want to live with a brain injury anymore. She was shaking when she was saying this and she [was] really stuttering. She got herself so worked up that she just went into a full-on seizure in my office,” Williams said.
Despite those challenges, some residents thrive. Joseph Rios, communication manager for Brothers Development described how another resident has given back to the community to show their gratitude for having a place to stay and stability.
“This place just made such a big change in his life [and was] the best thing that’s ever happened to him before. So he wanted to give back and just be a good neighbor now that he doesn’t have to worry about where he’s living,” Rios said.
This resident gives back by helping his neighbors carry their groceries inside and helps the elderly get around, according to Rios. Williams added that a lot of residents offer to landscape and do “odd jobs” for their neighbors at a more affordable price.
The lasting impact Valor on the Fax has had on residents’ lives also extends to its employees.
“We have some people who work here who are survivors of brain injuries and that’s really incredible to recover to the point where you can keep a job full time,” Williams said.