Fear and frustration drive those needing affordable housing
The story continues to be the same; for the past four weeks I’ve been connecting with folks endeavoring to find affordable housing in the county. They’ve reached out to me via text, via phone, via Facebook. They’ve agreed to meet with me on condition of anonymity because they want their story heard. They say they hope their story will bring some changes to the county.
But when it comes time to meet face to face, they back out. Reasons include needing to work an extra shift, a last-minute inability to find transportation to come to the meeting or fear that telling their story will negatively impact their current situation. I offer to reschedule the meeting or come to them, but they suddenly cease contact, deciding perhaps that it’s best to keep quiet – don’t rock the boat.
I’d hoped to tell three or four individual stories at length, but even after reaching out to Habitat for Humanity and the Chaffee Housing Trust and posting a search on Chaffee County Housing via Facebook, I’ve not had the privilege of meeting with someone long enough to tell their story in detail. Instead, I offer snippets from the brief biographies of real people living in the county – laboring day to day to try to make ends meet – that I’ve collected from text conversations and online stories shared via Facebook.
A husband who works in construction locally is tasked with providing for his baby and wife, who stays home full time right now to care for their child. They are living full time in a fifth-wheel RV and are unable to qualify for financial assistance because, at $18 per hour, he makes “too much.”
A single man on disability in the county has been making multiple trips to his storage unit. He’s downsizing to move into a fifth-wheel by the end of June – from the home he’s lived in as a renter for 20 years because it’s recently been sold. Additionally, this man is challenged with post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and agoraphobia. Ultimately, he was hesitant to speak further out of fear of repercussion from the person who is purchasing the home.
A woman who has lived in Salida her entire life, recently found the cost of living in the county to be “out of control.” She’s a single mother of two working three jobs “just to try and make it. It still isn’t enough to live here.” She has friends and family members who share in her struggle, as they are living in campers and RVs. Before too long, she expects to have to move out of her current home, as the owners are moving back to town. She fears for the situation she and her children will find themselves in. “The so-called ‘affordable housing’ isn’t (affordable). They turn you down, saying they don’t feel comfortable renting to single parents. Or they only allow two people per apartment. It’s just really sad to see our little town turn into what it has.”
Another view: A man, his wife and their family pets – a cat and dog – have been in need of housing for the past year. In the meantime they’ve been living year-round in an RV. He’s been gainfully employed full time at the same local business for two years; she is on disability. They can afford $1,000 monthly payments and desperately need more permanent housing. They love Chaffee County and don’t want to move. They’d be grateful now for even a more permanent RV parking space to rent.
It’s not too late to speak up and make your voice heard. If you have your own story to tell county and city officials, as well as the voters who will be considering the Salida Crossings project in September, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-207-5002.
This is part four in a series on affordable housing in Chaffee County. Next up, landlords and property managers speak up about the challenges they deal with in regard to housing and rentals in the county.
Previous articles in this series:
A Place to Call Home, Part 3: Habitat for Humanity can’t afford to build a home in Chaffee County
A Place to Call Home, Part 2: Being homeless brings daily challenges
A Place to Call Home, Part 1: Teacher struggles to find legal, affordable housing