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Attendees for the Janes Place Phase I celebration tried to fit into one picture. Photo by Jan Wondra.

Community-based, locally driven, Jane’s Place is unique and specific to meet the needs of this Community.

The mood was celebratory — filled with rainbows, leis and laughter under a robin’s egg blue sky. The crowd of around fifty or so attendee project supporters, key donors, and community leaders tromped on the solid dirt of the building site for Jane’s Place; the innovative affordable housing project near downtown Salida honoring the late Jane Whitmer. Located on the corner of W Third Street and U.S. 291 in Salida the dirt hid a lot of hard, early work.

“We’re standing on part of Phase I improvements for Jane’s place,” said Chaffee Housing Authority (CHA) Board Chair Craig Neilsen. “I know the first part doesn’t look as exciting, but there is about 90 days of hard work in the ground here, and this retaining wall — that are foundational to the project. Phase I is excavation, retaining wall, and underground utilities under our feet and connected to the street.”

He explained that the Phase I work is a $516,000 investment, adding “Most of it was from you folks. All of it was raised locally. This is a pretty big deal. The finished project will be about $6.25 million dollars.”

City Council Member Jane Templeton, and CHA board member Eileen Rogers listen to Commissioner Baker’s remarks. Behind them, a Salida Circus performer (Whitmer was very involved in Salida Circus. Photo by JanWondra.

Chaffee Commissioner Keith Baker spoke emotionally about knowing  Wnitmer, and about her irrepressible spirit and her will to make a difference. “I want to focus on Jane. This project is a lot like Jane – unique … everything we’re doing helps us remember Jane …  Jane was a hero to a lot of people,” said Baker. “She illuminated every room she walked into – she didn’t pull the energy from you – she exuded energy … everyone who got to know her loved her. The first time I met her I said – who is this lady?”

He went on to describe Jane Whitmer as, “A force field … knowing the work that Jane did,  she always wanted to keep families intact. She always thought about those with less shelter, housing, lacking a safe place to sleep at night or a place for kids to do their homework that wasn’t sitting in a parkign lot at night.

“This is generational security, perhaps not generational wealth,” he concluded, choking up on his final words. “But it is the security and something they can pass on to their children.  this is a testimony to a great human being, a wonderful lady, and my friend.”

While many of the event attendees noted the long road it has taken to reach this point, representatives of the Chaffee Housing Authority charged with the project, and the Chaffee County Community Foundation were upbeat, celebrating the completion of Phase One of the Jane’s Place Project.

Chaffee County Commissioner Keith Baker remembers the energy, passion, and inspiration that the late Jane Whitmer brought to the community now being realized in her legacy as the Jane’s Place adaptive housing project. Merrell Bergin photo

When completed, Jane’s Place will encompass four buildings, and 17 housing units to the Salida community, including 23 bedrooms designed to serve immediate local needs. Seasonal employees, new recruits to the workforce, families and individuals in crisis, and Americorps volunteers will be directly served through Jane’s Place. The project will also include a nonprofit incubator and social enterprise coffee shop.

The local community investment has set the project up for a successful phase 2, allowing the Chaffee Housing Authority to leverage grant funding and financing to cover the approximate $5,300,000 needed for the construction of the buildings. The last stage of the project is estimated to cost $500,000 and will include the furnishings, furniture, equipment, and landscaping.

Miki Hodge and son Cooper thank supporters of Jane’s Place adaptive housing project in Salida, celebrating the phase one infrastructure now at the site. Merrell Bergin photo

“As I’ve processed this, it makes so much sense that she was able to do so much –the work in the jails, the mindfulness, the yoga… she works hard to keep families together, said City of Salida Mayor Dan Shore, reminding the audience of her yoga work in the jails. He shared that even before he met Whitmer, he was a mentor and the family he worked with “had very little reason to trust the system — and they trusted Jane. They felt her love and her support, but mostly it was because Jane didn’t have a single bureaucratic bone in her body.”

“She was a real-life hero,” remembers Miki Hodge, friend and colleague of Jane Whitmer, who set up the celebration. “She believed that keeping families intact was paramount during turmoil, financial crisis, unsheltered times, unforeseen circumstances and adversity.”

“This is no traditional housing development. It was specifically designed by locals to meet local solutions and it leverages a variety of funding sources to ensure we can use the space how our community needs it most” said Chaffee Housing Authority Board Chair, Craig Neilson, “From single-family units, to seasonal housing, to space for our unsheltered neighbors – Jane’s Place is as much of a trailblazer in the housing solutions space as Jane was during her lifetime.”

The project’s unique match to local needs has actually held up state housing board funding support. “In the original soup-making of this project, as it began to form inside the Chaffee County Community Foundation (CCCF) the uniqueness of this project is why it has taken time said the former CCCF Executive Director JOspeh Teipel. “It doesn’t fit in any of the clean boxes —  it makes everyone scratch their head about it.

Jane’s Place was developed as a partnership between the Chaffee County Community Foundation, the CHA, and supporters and friends of Jane Whitmer. Individuals seeking to contribute to the project can make a tax-deductible donation at


DDDMikki and her son Cooper — and Salida Circus…. Jane was a huge player in the Salida Circus — words – vibrant, joyful, effervessent, her dugahters in New Orleans and Austin and ron in MExico….

Cooper was an intern on a film made about the Salida Circus….Cooper raising funds for furniture…. housing accessories… table, chairs, lighting, beds ….

We’re volunteers iwth teh housing authority…