This Dillon teacher lives in a van — not for the “van life,” but because it’s her only affordable option

High cost of living in Summit County is causing retention struggles for the school district, which is embarking on an affordable housing plan in hopes of keeping more educators

Erica Breunlin
The Colorado Sun
Summit Cove Elementary School teacher Sarah Pomeroy cooks dinner inside her van on Dec. 15 in Dillon. Dubbed Beatrice by her students, the van is where Pomeroy calls home.
Hugh Carey/The Colorado Sun

When Sarah Pomeroy rumbles into the parking lot of Summit Cove Elementary School each morning, she brings everything she owns: her lab mix, Mack; a fake hanging plant she calls Amanda Vines; her kitchen sink, stove and mini fridge; overhead cubbies filled with clothes; and even her bed.

It’s all tucked neatly inside her white Dodge Ram ProMaster — dubbed Beatrice by her students — which for the past year and a half has doubled as her home.

Pomeroy, who teaches science, technology, engineering and mathematics as well as physical education at the Summit County school, loves toting her entire life around with her. It’s convenient, particularly for moments of mishap, like the time she ripped her pants while at school. She simply darted back out to Beatrice to retrieve another pair.

It’s also cost effective. While many people embrace “van life” as a means of ditching the grid and waking up against a new backdrop each day or week, Pomeroy’s decision to live on wheels is driven not by freedom but necessity. Her van has become the most affordable way for her to stay in a mountain resort community where the average home price through October reached $983,458 — far beyond financial reach for an educator who earns an annual salary of about $60,000. Just 6% of houses in Summit School District were affordable to educators earning an average teacher salary of $67,000 in 2021, according to a teacher housing report published by the nonpartisan Keystone Policy Center in August.

Without the money to purchase a house or comfortably rent her own apartment, Pomeroy would likely be pushed out of the place that has become her home over the past decade, if not for Beatrice. Her struggles echo across much of Colorado as many educators find themselves priced out of their local housing markets — with fewer than one-fifth of homes in the state affordable to teachers who earn an average salary in their district, making it harder for school districts to draw teachers and keep them in classrooms long term. 


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