By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
In April 2002, she was working in a publishing-house bindery and paying the bills, thanks to filing an income-tax return for the first time in three years and getting $11,000 back from the government. That's when Amy's man brought her a bag of meth. That November, she got a job as a store manager in the Tabor Center. The next month, she started smoking meth in the apartment. What had been a once-a-week habit became a daily thing.
Amy's father died in early 2003. She got the news on a Saturday and was still high and awake on Tuesday, on her first major binge.
"At the beginning it was like coffee; I used it just to wake up," Amy explained. "When I got to be such an addict that I was getting high every day, it got to the point that I had to use or I'd be sleeping and I wouldn't be able to take care of my kids. I'd eat it, twice a day."
She stopped paying the bills, and in July, they were evicted. Amy took the children to her mother's place and spent the first night in a U-Haul. Then she started couch-surfing, staying high and trying to figure out what to do next.
Armed with a motel voucher from the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, Amy checked in to the Aristocrat on West Colfax for about five days in September 2003. There was no phone, no alarm clock, no sheets, no towels, no soap, no shampoo, no television -- just three twin beds and a bathroom.
When the voucher ran out, Amy ended up with the Interfaith Hospitality Network, bouncing between different churches that allowed a homeless person to stay for a week at a time. Just before Halloween, she went back to her friend's in Thornton, then to her mom's, then to another friend's in Aurora before getting a nine-day voucher for an East Colfax motel, the Sands. After that, she wound up in a relative's trailer. But then another income-tax return came in, and Amy took her kids back to the Sands.
It was spring break and the first time his mother had tried quitting meth, Three remembers. But then his father, who'd dropped by to visit the kids at the various places they'd stayed, came to visit with a pocket full of the drug. When the money ran out again, Amy and the kids went to Access Housing, a shelter in Commerce City, where she got a two-bedroom apartment that they could stay in for a month. The family lasted there six weeks, with Amy taking a day off meth now and then so that she could pass the mandatory urine tests. The shelter's administrators thought she was looking for a job, but most of the time she was just tweaking.
In November 2004, Amy and her family wound up at the Dunes. They moved into room 116, then switched to 228, which was bigger. When Amy couldn't pay for it, the family was booted out -- but then Amy got another voucher and went back, this time to room 227. Getting kicked out of the Dunes became a weekly thing, and so did moving back in after Amy had raised the rent from friends or at churches.
Amy had always done a lot of babysitting, too, usually for friends who were going out to find meth, friends who paid her in meth. But after Amy quit the drug -- getting clean just with the help of a friend who was doing the same thing -- she started charging for her services and expanded her clientele.
One day the Dunes' maintenance man found Amy at the Ranger, the motel where she and the kids were staying after they'd been kicked out of the Dunes once again. He was leaving in a couple of months, moving out of state, he told her, but in the meantime, she and her kids could stay in the living room of his room at the Dunes -- 325, which featured one of the motel's best air conditioners. Maybe that would help her get back on her feet.
But Amy wound up swept off hers when the maintenance man's son, Joshua Kinney, came home. Together they watched the Cartoon Network, laughed and talked. Joshua was ten years younger than Amy; he'd moved from California to Colorado with his parents back in 1995, when he was thirteen. The family had spent more than a year at the King's Inn on East Colfax, then stayed in a nearby townhouse and at a trailer park. Joshua had been bouncing around East Colfax motels ever since; he could remember nineteen moves.
In September 2005, when Joshua and his father were set to move again, Amy threw a little party. She and Joshua hooked up that night, and after he left, she got drunk and smoked meth -- even though she'd been off it a few months, even though Joshua despised the shit. Still, she held on to room 325 because she knew that Joshua would come back.
The next month, he did. Then Amy got pregnant.
They were still living in the Dunes with Amy's kids and the baby when they got word that the motel would be closing for good on April 1, 2007.