A longtime resident in one of Denver's Safe Outdoor Spaces is at the beginning of a new chapter in his life. Last month, Gary Peters moved into a brand-new apartment, and now that home has received a major upgrade.
From new appliances to fresh bedding and decorations, Peters' apartment underwent a major transformation Tuesday, though the 76-year-old wasn't there to see it happen.
"We took him to breakfast this morning, we got him cleaned up at a barber shop," said Scott Mathias with REMAX Professionals and Knock Knock Angels. "He doesn't know what to expect."
The makeover comes a month after Peters moved into his new home. The apartment is a major upgrade, after experiencing homelessness for around 8 years.
"I never in my life expected anything this wonderful," Peters said when seeing his newly furnished apartment for the first time.
Before moving in, Peters preferred his top-of-the-line tent over pricey apartments, but in 2020 he made a change, reluctantly choosing to live in the Colorado Village Collaborative's Safe Outdoor Space.
"The people went out of their way to help us," Peters said.
Among those helping was director Cuica Montoya, who with staff helped the army veteran navigate the system and find a permanent home.
Peters is now one of 100 people helped into improved housing, which is about a fifth of the people the program has served in the last 18 months.
"This is the ultimate goal," Montoya said. "Yes, the problem feels humungous, but if we provide enough dignity to one person and get them into housing plus all the other housing outcomes we've had this year, it's so worth it."
Tuesday's makeover came thanks to the Knock Knock Angels, a group of real estate professionals aiming to make the transition more comfortable. Since forming earlier this year, they've upgraded 16 homes.
"We want to give these people dignity, so when get done with these makeovers they look like a model home," said Scott Mathias.
It's all new to Peters but won't be taken for granted.
"This isn't surviving, this is living," he said. "I actually have a home and who knows, may actually have a life again."
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