By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER (CBS4)– State and city leaders celebrated the opening of a new apartment complex Thursday on Federal Boulevard that will house 60 people. It’s part of an ongoing initiative to help the homeless and connect them with the services needed to become healthy and independent.

“We know that when people are in their own homes, feel safe, and are provided access to the support they need, they’re able to work toward overall well-being and a life they’ve always dreamed of having,” Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said in a statement.

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The City and County of Denver established a social impact bond in 2016 to help pay for housing projects like the Sanderson Apartments on Federal Boulevard and Iowa Avenue.

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The goal of the bond is to help 250 people considered chronically homeless get the housing they need. The program hopes to offset the expense they create for taxpayers by spending time in jail, needing treatment, getting arrested, or visiting the emergency room. A cost the city estimates to be $7 million each year just for those 250 people.

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“The idea of this space is to create an environment that’s open and comforting in such a way that it doesn’t re-traumatize people when they’re living in this kind of space,” Dr. Carl Clark told CBS4.

Clark is the CEO of the Mental Health Center of Denver. It’s one of the program partners on the project.

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Features at the new building includes wide hallways that make the area more inviting, staircases with glass walls so they are more open, and each unit has an open format with limited walls so no one feels like they’re closed in. The concept is called Trauma-Informed Design and this is one of the few buildings in the nation to fully integrate these principles.

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Projects like this are paid for using the social impact bond with support from the city as well as private investment and federal funding. Residents will get vouchers to help pay for their own housing and also have access to services on site to help them with mental health issues.

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The complex features several open spaces and privates areas for residents to help them feel safe and build a sense of community. New tenants at the complex will start moving in next week.

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“Sanderson Apartments will help those who have formerly experienced homelessness to build stable and productive lives,” said Melinda Pollack of Enterprise Community Partners in a release.

The organization helps to provides housing for vulnerable populations across the country.

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“It’s critical that residents have homes within a healing environment, both through building design and accompanying services.”

Shawn Chitnis reports for CBS4 News at 10 on weekends and CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. throughout the week. Email him story ideas at smchitnis@cbs.com and connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.

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