In Colorado mountain towns, where affordable housing is scarce, “even living out of your car is gentrified” |

In Colorado mountain towns, where affordable housing is scarce, “even living out of your car is gentrified”

Activist Raychel Kelly is negotiating to designate a second safe zone in Breckenridge

Bruce Finley
The Denver Post
Annie San Roman, 18, folds one of her work dresses as she puts away her laundry on Aug. 2, 2022, inside the government-owned trailer where she lives as part of a program to house members of the workforce in Salida. San Roman grew up in the area and currently has one job, but she hopes soon to start a second job at grocery store in town. The City of Salida and Chaffee Housing Authority started the program, called “Open Doors,” to help local workers find affordable places to stay. Tenants need to be referred by their employer to apply to the program.
RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post

BRECKENRIDGE — Blocked from sleeping in vehicles parked within municipal boundaries, workers in profit-minded Colorado mountain towns now must seek “safe outdoor space” — in Walmart lots, forests or newly designated areas with Wi-Fi and access to bathrooms.

But homeowners oppose these SOS zones in Salida and Breckenridge as “band-aids” encouraging vehicle-based living. And workers who park there are charged $300 a month in Salida and $45 in Breckenridge ($80 if rec center showers are included).

Colorado’s widening kibosh on sleeping in vehicles adds to festering pain beneath the state’s recreation-oriented tourism and house-buying economic fervor. Towns are transformed and celebrated as mountain amusement havens where river rafts and mountain bikes glide. But an intensifying housing squeeze hits workers hardest and now threatens service. These new accommodations have emerged as government-backed efforts to retain workers and also keep parking spaces free for visitors and well-to-do newcomers.

Across mountainous western Colorado, cars as cocoons for sleep and sanity serve as last-resort shelters helping hundreds who provide services stay around. Yet “parking is at a premium,” said Margaret Bowes, director of the Colorado Association of Ski Towns, welcoming the creation of new designated overnight lots.

“It’s just a safe place to park where people aren’t going to be bothered by police,” Bowes said. “These are the people keeping our communities running. We need them here.”


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