Searching for a place to call home
It was a painful night for Marcy Garcia.It was also a night of hope for the 21-year-old mother of three.As she stood at the lectern to tell her story about trying to find housing in the valley, the tears overpowered her.Marcy remembers growing up in a home, surrounded by family. Today, she lives with a friend in Carbondale while her kids stay with their grandmother.Tears escape when she thinks about her kids. She admits that it hurts to talk about her struggles. With the kids’ father “out of the picture,” Marcy hates to think that she might be a bad mom.She’s lived in the valley for the past 18 years and now she wants a home, where she can raise Tony, Carla and Emily, who are all younger than 3 years old. It’s been three weeks since Marcy and her kids have lived in a separate homes.”My hope is to someday have a place that I can call home. I want to give my kids a home.”A woman named Sarah sits near the back of the church. Alone, listening intently as the government officials talk about what can be done to help residents find housing.The term attainable is used instead of affordable. It’s an appropriate term. Sarah’s husband stayed home to watch their two children. Sarah doesn’t want to give her last name. She’s embarrassed.The family of four rents an apartment in Glenwood and she says things aren’t too bad compared to other people’s problems. But she wants a home. A home like she remembers as a child. A home with a backyard, a big picture window and a doorbell.She doesn’t care about the two-car garage.Things are different today. Money doesn’t goes as far. What bills to pay and what food to buy are the monthly juggling act.According to statistics disclosed at Monday’s meeting, a household needs to make $124,000 a year to be able to afford a home in Garfield County.There’s always that creative financing that helps get people in the door. But then where’s the money for food, clothing, and other stuff.The meeting wasn’t about Latinos, whites, old or young. The diversity of the crowd showed that this is nearly everybody’s problem.There’s a lack of senior housing. There’s a lack of affordable rental property. Home prices under $300,000 are as rare as a unicorn.What will happen when the kids grow up? Where will they live? What will they do?Officials from Aspen to Parachute came to the meeting. Everyone acknowledges that there’s a problem. That’s a start.That gives Marcy hope.”If they don’t do anything about it now, it will get worse,” she says. “I think about how bad it will be in five years.”Attainable housing is a problem for every town and county. It’s not just a problem for people searching for a place to live. Employers are worried. School districts lose teachers. Companies lose workers.It’s a quality of life question. If the paycheck disappears in the rent or mortgage check, quality of life goes on life support.For years, the affordable housing problem has slowly trickled from one town to the next. Workers keep moving downvalley to find affordable homes. Glenwood, then New Castle, then Silt, Rifle and now Parachute and even farther west. There will be another meeting on May 24. More words will fly, more hope will be hatched. This won’t be an easy problem to solve. Maybe this will be the first step.Marcy and Sarah hope so. They want a place to call home. So do thousands of others.Things will never be like they used to.The American dream is attainable, and so should housing in this valley.Marcy, who works full time at the Sports Authority, allows herself to dream a little and a smile takes over. Thinking about where she might be in five years, she offers a modest reply.”This is such a beautiful place to live. It’s a great place to raise family. I just want a home for my kids. I want to provide for my family and give them a place they can call home.”For now, like so many other people, she’s just trying to get by one day at a time – paycheck to paycheck. Marcy’s also looking forward to the day when she can wake up under the same roof as Tony, Carla and Emily.A place called home. A place that shouldn’t be this elusive.
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