Locally-made video shorts focused on “Stories of Home & Heart” were shared in Salida on October 27 and in Buena Vista on November 3 as part of the ongoing “We Are Chaffee” focus on the county’s housing challenges.
These free movie events included a diverse collection of stories created by Chaffee County community members during a workshop hosted in partnership with Colorado Mountain College. The storytellers shared their perspectives about what home means to them. It was followed by an engaging question-and-answer session with the storytellers.
We Are Chaffee has acknowledged the significant effort and courage the storytellers devoted to sharing their stories to evoke community understanding and compassion. Thank you’s are due Deb Bass, Michele Williams, Megan Juba, Nancy Locke, Mark Dean, Sally Herndon, and Anna Belin.
The stories revealed a deep sense and need of the feeling of “home” for participants. That need, whether home meant landing in Salida and spending many years finding an affordable house to raise a blended family, or finding oneself suddenly stripped of a fierce independence and having to ask for help, was met in the form of a new Chaffee Housing Authority program and the generous hearts of friends.
The Question-and-Answer session with the storytellers was especially inspirational; pointing out the importance of a safe and loving home, including the foundational support of community and/or family. The story writers confirmed that home is much more than a structure. As one audience participant commented when asked what surprised them about these stories, “The diversity, depth and collaboration and how each story was felt deep inside my soul.”
In addition to the Storytelling movie, Mike Bischoff, the Deputy Director of the Chaffee Housing Authority provided a housing update for the audience. We Are Chaffee too! shared written stories beautifully displayed on storyboards for guests to read during the dinner.
The short stories are as varied as our community thanks to the diversity of the four story writers: Bianka Martinez, Megan Juba, Cecilia LaFrance, and Luz Stella Diaz. Each story and adjoining photo of the storyteller has its own personality and way in which it impacts the reader and can be read in a couple of minutes.
The storyboards will be on display during the month of December at the Salida Library and at the Buena Vista Library during the month of January.
The goal of the We Are Chaffee storytelling initiative is to create conversation and action around housing and health equity in Chaffee County.
“Sharing stories is an important part of learning and understanding what is happening at the core of our community,” said Chaffee Housing Director Becky Gray. “The hope is that this increase in awareness will inspire advocacy for positive change by providing input to elected officials and on the County Land Use Code Update to ultimately create a healthier, more resilient community.”
Responses from the audience survey after the event supported the We Are Chaffee Initiative’s efforts. An average of 80 percent of the audience stated that they increased their awareness of both housing insecurity and health equity in Chaffee County during the event. In addition, when asked what they envision Chaffee County looking like in five years, the responses fell squarely into two categories; optimistic and discouraged.
The optimists mentioned seeing an increase in employment security and closing of the wage gap and increased innovative affordable housing. One audience member stated, “Lots of diversity of housing, diverse ideas and involvement in the community to provide homes, jobs and educational options for our citizens.”
The discouraged group had concerns that Chaffee County is going to end up with an increased number of second homeowners purchasing property and current residents not being able to afford to live here anymore. One audience member said, “I am quite concerned that housing prices are outrageous. In five years if we do not rally now with public and private sector partnerships that are aggressive, with affordable houses that are actually affordable, we will lose the essence of community and small businesses will not be able to do business in our region. We have known this was coming; we must rally and support now all of those who are unable to live in the community.”
The We Are Chaffee initiative grew out of the Chaffee County Public Health and Chaffee Housing Authority grant-funded Housing + Health Program to inspire strong community dialogue and education about the connection of health to housing. If you are interested in participating in the next Colorado Mountain College/We are Chaffee storytelling workshop, please email: Lmartin@chaffeecounty.org
To view video stories, read the written stories, connect with the We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream podcast, and learn more about this storytelling initiative, visit: www.wearechaffee.org.