Glenwood family facing the loss of housing assistance
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
WEST GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – For Leah and Y Bohlare and their four kids, the impending loss of federal housing assistance is a problem, but they are viewing it as an opportunity, as well.
The Bohlares, who live in the Storm King Trailer Park on Highway 6 beyond the old West Glenwood Mall, are among the 76 families recently informed by the Garfield County Housing Authority that their final federal assistance voucher would cover the month of September.
After that, they would be on their own, and they’re not sure what they’ll do.
“We’re hoping to get a school bus that we can convert to a living space,” said Leah Bohlare, explaining that they have had some experience living in vehicles before they moved into the Storm King park. After arriving in Glenwood Springs several years ago, they lived in an RV for a short time, and in a pickup camper. Then the local Catholic Charities organization helped them get the trailer and to sign them up with the GCHA.
Geneva Powell, director of the GCHA, sent out letters to the families, and to 44 area landlords, explaining that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development [HUD] was cutting back the funding for its housing voucher program by $52,000 a month.
Powell is hoping that the federal agency will come up with more money to keep the families housed, and was encouraged this week when U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and U.S. Rep. John Salazar jointly wrote a letter to HUD in support of funding for the local program.
“There is a ray of hope,” she told the Post Independent on Aug. 6.
Y, who is 31, said he suffers from a couple of herniated discs in his back and is unable to work, adding that he has filed for disability payments from the government. Prior to wrenching his back, he said, he worked at “anything and everything I could.” He worked as a day-laborer for Mountain Temps and Labor Source, two area employment agencies, and worked for the Town of Carbondale for a while, among other jobs, he said. But now he is restricted in the amount of weight he can lift, he explained, which limits the kinds of jobs he can get.
Leah, 28, stays at home to raise and home-school their children – Lilyahna, 8, Sander, 7, Arorya, 4, and Grifyn, 1 – using the Colorado Virtual Academy on-line educational programs and working with a teacher based in Carbondale.
She said he went to school for graphic design, but that all her time now is taken up “doing the kid thing. You have to be present to be a mom.”
The couple said they met in Arizona, where Leah was raised, and came to the Roaring Fork Valley in 2006 because Y knew people in Glenwood from an earlier visit.
“It was amazingly beautiful here. Once we got here we couldn’t leave,” Leah recalled fondly.
They got hooked up with the pastor of Crystal River Baptist Church, and the congregation has been “kind of our family” ever since, she said.
“We’re open, we have people over to our home, I cook dinner for people,” she continued, and Y described their lifestyle as “different, that’s for sure.”
“But it doesn’t make us less human, just because we’re different,” Leah added.
Leah acknowledged that their openness caused a problem recently, when the family left their trailer for a while and returned to find that Leah’s laptop computer, which she used in the home-schooling program, had been stolen.
“They just stepped in the door and took it,” Y said. The Virtual Academy sent them a desktop computer so they could keep up with the program, but they have yet to recover the stolen laptop.
The pastor at Crystal River Baptist Church, Y said, has been helping them look for a school bus, which Y said is part of their goal of showing others how to live an alternative lifestyle depending on the community rather than on government largesse.
“They’re running out of money to help all the families that need help,” he said.
By outfitting a bus and offering refuge to those who need it, Y continued, “We can help them [the government and relief agencies] by helping those who they can’t help.”
The couple said they have been planning to get the bus for some time, but that the impending loss of their housing assistance may cause them to move their schedule up a bit.
Y said he is hoping to barter for the bus, perhaps trade work for whatever the price is.
“We’re not looking for something for nothing. That’s not the way we were raised,” he declared.
And if they get the bus?
“There’s more that we would like to see than staying in this house,” said Leah.
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