In a recent Comment of the Day, a Westword reader argued that Denver rent prices are so high they're pushing people into homelessness. A local woman who asks to be referred to as Sandra P knows this story firsthand. She tells us she and her family are currently homeless, and the reason, she says, is the outrageous cost of rent in the metro area these days.
"My husband, my son and I are one of those families that has become homeless due to the rise in rent prices," she notes via e-mail. "I have lived in Colorado for just under nineteen years and, from my memory, this is the highest I've ever seen.
"We were asked to move from our apartment so that they may raise the rent without the option of paying the higher rent," she continues. "That was at the end of September. We have not been able to find a new home yet because they want you to make 3 to 3.5 times the rent. Usually that isn't a problem for us, as my husband makes good money (roughly $3,500 a month), but not this time. We have been staying with friends since October 3, and unfortunately I've had to send my son to stay with his father until we can find our own home, as there isn't enough room here with us."
Sandra's son is eight and attends second grade at a school in Lakewood. In the meantime, she and her husband are staying in Englewood.
"There are about six of us coming and going from the house," she notes. "Most of our things, minus some clothes, a couple toys and my husband's work tools, are in storage or in my parents' garage. So staying here indefinitely isn't really an option in my mind. Besides it being a terribly awkward adjustment period (getting used to living out of a bag/not having a space that feels like it's truly home), I miss my son. I do get to see him here and there, but not as often as I'm used to and need. We will be needing to move back towards Lakewood as soon as possible and haven't stopped looking for a place we might be able to afford. With no avail, I might add.
"We've even looked into one-bedroom apartments. Give my son the bedroom and turn the living room into a studio, basically. Most one-beds aren't big enough for the three of us. Also, I have two of my younger brother' s pets, a cat and a five-pound Chihuahua. He was diagnosed with epilepsy almost three years ago and can't take care of them himself, but still loves them and wants them around. Finding a reasonably priced apartment with even one pet is almost impossible. I had one lady tell me I should think of getting rid of one of them or have my brother (who can't work) help me pay for them. Some places are charging up to a $500 pet deposit per pet plus $50 pet rent, per pet."
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Fortunately, Sandra's friends are understanding about the situation, and she feels she'll be able to stay with them for as long as necessary -- although "I'm just hoping it's not too long." Regarding employing, she writes that "I work at an outside pizza place downtown and my season just ended until March. I am looking for a winter job at the moment, but finding a job is kind of like my super power, so I'm not too worried about it. My husband travels for work: He just came home from his busy season last week. He's in town till January, when he leaves to work the Super Bowl. Right now, we're just waiting to hear back from the union.... That can be hit or miss sometimes."
As Sandra continues to look for a more permanent home for her family, she makes this observation about renting in Denver: "Not only do these high rent prices cause homelessness, but they are breaking up families as well."
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.