Navigating how to apply for benefits and figuring out which benefits you need can be a tricky process, especially if you’ve just lost a job, home, or health insurance coverage. However, with the right information and a little direction, you can get the help you need to support your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Here’s a brief guide to help you understand how to apply for housing, unemployment, and other benefits in Colorado.
Types of Benefits Available
The types of benefits you apply for will change based on your individual needs and situation. Overall, there are a few main types of benefits you can get in Colorado.
County Administered Benefits: the benefits in this category cover a wide range of programs designed to help you secure basic housing, food, and health services. This includes, but is not limited to, Medicaid, Child Health Plan (CHP), home care services, food assistance programs, and rent rebates.
Government Benefits: these types of benefits come from a federal level but are administered by the state. This includes Medicare, unemployment benefits, and the Low Income Energy Assitance Program (LEAP).
Social Security Benefits: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) provide assistance to people who have needs for food, clothing, and shelter and people with disabilities.
Agency Resources: some agencies are able to help people with more specific issues such as finding housing or paying an electric bill. These types of benefits tend to cover smaller, “one-off” types of assistance.
Applying for Benefits
Knowing where to apply, what verifications you need, and what benefits you’re eligible for are just the first steps to receiving benefits. Luckily, you can apply for Food Assistance, Medicaid, and other county benefits on the same application using the Colorado PEAK website. To complete this, follow these steps:
- Create an account or apply as a guest.
- Write down the tracking number once the application is submitted.
- If you apply for Food Assistance (or certain other benefits), you will also need to complete an interview in addition to the application.
If you have difficulty determining which benefits you can apply for or how to complete the application, you can contact Jefferson Center’s Navigation team at (303) 432-5130 to set up an appointment and one of our team members will help you apply.
How to Find Housing
Finding adequate, affordable housing in the Denver Metro area can be tricky, but there are plenty of tips and tricks to help you find the right place to call home. Whether you have a moderate to limited income or no income, there are programs out there that can help, including vouchers and subsidies. Here are a couple of the most common housing assistance options you might encounter.
Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8)
- Each housing authority manages its own voucher program
- Waitlists open randomly and for different lengths of time
- The voucher stays with the tenant, so if you move the voucher goes with you
Site-Based Subsidized Housing
- The subsidy stays with the apartment, so if you move you lose the subsidy
- Check with individual apartment complexes that offer subsidies:
- Metro West Housing Solutions, South Metro Housing Options, Mercy Housing Authority
- Contact Navigation at (303) 432-5130 for a full list of site-based subsidized housing options
Common Housing Barriers
Aside from your budget, you might face other barriers that can make it difficult for you to find and keep housing. Some of the most common barriers include:
- Having a criminal background
- Having a record as a sex offender
- Being evicted from your previous place of residence
- Immigrant status
- Health issues and disabilities
- Finding adequate housing for children
- Discrimination on the part of the owner
You can overcome some of these barriers by doing thorough research on the places you’re looking to rent, applying for assistance programs, and taking creative approaches like finding roommates or seeking out private landlords.
If you’ve faced difficulty in the past securing housing due to a criminal record or if you have a record as a sex offender, the best course of action is to be upfront and honest with new landlords. You can find more information about this here.
Housing Search Tips
Before you begin your search for housing, you will want to collect all of the necessary documents you might need to present. This includes a birth certificate, valid driver’s license, Social Security card, proof of income, letters of recommendation from previous landlords, and letters of explanation if you were evicted in the past or have a criminal history.
Here are some more helpful tips to make your search as easy and effective as possible:
- Get your name on every waitlist possible (no matter how long it is)
- Apply for all Section 8 waitlist openings
- Check back regularly with landlords on waitlists you’re already on
- Document all the phone calls you to make and the name of the person you spoke with
- Keep an up-to-date mailing address and phone number and be sure to update landlords on any changes to these
- Set a goal for applications to complete each day or week
Taking Care of Your Mental Health
Applying for housing and benefits can be time-consuming and draining, especially if you have recently lost a job or need to find housing quickly. Be sure to support your mental health throughout the process by taking plenty of breaks to practice self-care and replenish your patience. You can also reach out to local agencies and organizations for support, resources, and guidance as you navigate the process.
Contact the Jefferson Center Navigation Services team and get connected to assistance by calling 303-432-5130. Navigation Services can help you find out if you are eligible, and what benefits you can apply for, and assist you throughout the process to help you get the essential services you need. You can also learn more by watching our webinar, Navigating Unemployment Benefits and Housing in Colorado.
If you are in a crisis, please call us at 720-791-2735 or by calling the crisis line at 844-493-8255. The 24/7 crisis walk-in center and withdrawal management program is open at 4643 Wadsworth Blvd, Wheat Ridge, CO 80033.