Jack Wilson was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Though he has family and roots there, Mr. Wilson feels truly settled in the metro Denver area.
“It was funny, when I was in New York for the last three or four years, everybody would say — even at the VA hospital and cab drivers — isn’t it great to be back home in New York? And I say, yeah, but you know what? My home is in Colorado.”
Along with turning friends into family throughout the area, he has also lived at two properties focusing on housing veterans — Abrigo and Park 16. These two affordable housing complexes are part of Community Solutions’ social impact investing model, designed to open up a critical pathway for addressing the housing gaps that stand in the way of cities like Metro Denver working to get to functional zero
Joining the service
As a veteran, Mr. Wilson has lived alongside other former service members in the 60-unit Park 16 community and 66-unit Abrigo Apartments over the last decade.
Mr. Wilson decided to join the Army while he was in high school after meeting a local recruiter in the neighborhood. He attended basic training in Fort Dix in New Jersey, where he earned his GED and went to fieldman’s school to become a fuel wireman.
“I was in the communication division of an artillery unit,” he explained. “I hooked up phones and dealt with radio and satellite.”
To pass the class, he had to learn complex skills like how to climb a telephone pole two stories high, make a circle around the top, and scale back down.
After completing training, he was deployed to Germany and stationed outside Frankfurt in a small town called Freiburg. He spent two and a half years there.
“It was great because I got to see most of Europe and everything,” Mr. Wilson said. “I was one of those ones who went against the grade. And if they said — who wants to volunteer to go here? I would volunteer.”
He also played on the battalion basketball team, which traveled to other bases in Germany and other countries. ”I’m one of those people who likes going and likes to travel and learn new things,” he said.
After three years in the Army, Mr. Wilson exited the service and returned to New York, where he attended The John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
After several years in New York, Mr. Wilson felt it was time for a change and decided to head out West to experience a new part of the country. While on the bus to Wyoming, Mr. Wilson struck up a conversation with a man who persuaded him to check out Denver instead.
“And I stopped in Denver and haven’t regretted it since,” he said. “The people in Denver really welcomed me. I got to meet some good people.”
In Denver, Mr. Wilson worked as a counselor for eight years at a halfway house for young people, helping to guide them as they grew up.
“They hadn’t had any kind of structure, and these were teenagers and everything,” he explained. “So we would teach them how to sit at the dinner table, get them library cards, show them how to do food shopping, and take them to the dentist. And just try to teach them that there was a better way than the way they had been brought up.”
After several years in the Denver area, Mr. Wilson moved into Abrigo Apartments, an affordable living apartment community in Aurora.
“I enjoyed living at Abrigo…the location was good for me, because I drive, but I don’t like driving. So its bus schedule runs really well with what I like to do in Denver.”
But after a few years, his mother, who still lived in New York, began facing health problems. He left Colorado to be with her in 2019, and then the Covid-19 pandemic began, which kept him there for a while. He decided to move out of Abrigo since he would be in New York indefinitely.
Finding a new home at Park 16
After his mother passed away in 2022, Mr. Wilson returned to Colorado and stayed with some friends for a while, hoping to be able to lease another apartment back in Abrigo. But when he reached out to the property manager there, Lindsey Ramirez, he discovered there was no availability.
“I think the people that work at the VA hospital are some of the best people in the world. I love Denver because it’s more of a community, especially at the veteran hospital.”jack wilson, veteran and resident of park 16 apartments
“And then she said, well, you know, we have our other property, Park 16, which is right in the same area,” Mr. Wilson explained. He qualified for an apartment there and, in March 2023, decided to move in at Lindsey’s recommendation.
“I’m on disability, and this Park 16 location is really great for me because the VA hospital is located two bus stops away,” he said. Mr. Wilson makes a point to go to the VA Hospital in particular, as he has always had good experiences with the doctors and nurses there.
“This new VA hospital they have out here — it’s tremendous. Top of the line,” he said. “I think the people that work at the VA hospital are some of the best people in the world. I love Denver because it’s more of a community, especially at the veteran hospital.”
Connecting with the community
In his spare time, Mr. Wilson enjoys much of what his local community has to offer. He frequents the senior citizen center to take classes at their gym or learn more about computers.
He also visits the local Retired Enlisted Association, which holds veterans breakfasts once a month, and he hopes to join the Lions Club soon to begin volunteering with kids again.
Mr. Wilson has also found friendship and community at Park 16. “Every time I go to the office and see Lindsey, the first thing she asks is if everything is alright. She’s very kind,” he said. “She takes care of me, and I see that she worries about the other tenants.”
In the summertime, Mr. Wilson often joins other veterans in the complex, sitting outside, talking, and enjoying the weather. “It’s a nice group of veterans here,” he said.
His stable home and supportive community has given Mr. Wilson a foundation to flourish: “I’m starting to get out more socially and everything, now that I’ve got my roots down here in this apartment.”