Many in Chaffee County have a job, sometimes two jobs, but no safe or secure housing.
What is it like to have employment but no place to live? How essential to the safety, security and well-being of children is having a home? How important to your quality of life is knowing where you are going to sleep tonight? In the Upper Arkansas Valley, where the economic future relies heavily on recreation and tourism, why is there a shortage of workforce housing?
These questions and more underlie a series that begins this week in Ark Valley Voice called “A Place to Call Home.” The goal is to give a voice to the often voiceless people dealing firsthand with the housing crisis. Beginning with a piece today by Ericka Kastner, Ark Valley Voice will bring you the housing realities of Chaffee County’s working families and individuals. While some people in the stories will be identified, we may withhold or change others’ names to protect their identities.
These families without permanent housing may be couch-surfing; living in recreational vehicles parked at camp sites, driveways and backyards; or camped on public land – worried that at any moment they won’t have a place to sleep at night. They are also the people who cook the food and wait on us at restaurants, guide recreational activities, answer emergency response calls and teach our children.
In short, they are us. It’s time to hear their stories, presented against the backdrop of statistics.
When the Chaffee County Housing Assessment was issued in 2016, there were some who did not want to believe that the county faces such a dire housing shortage. Others met it head-on. Immediately after the report’s release, an ad hoc group representing government entities, elected officials, health and human services providers, organizations that work with county youth, developers and builders, and concerned citizens assembled as the Housing Policy Advisory Committee. Their goal was to identify solutions to the affordable housing shortage.
When Chaffee County’s new housing director starts her job in mid-June, she’ll begin developing strategic solutions to the region’s workforce housing problems based on the HPAC’s assessment.
If you or someone you know would like to share your housing story with us and help us present a full picture of the county’s housing situation, contact Jan@arkvalleyvoice.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.