Judy Amabile: Affordable housing: Last stop before homelessness

Published in the Daily Camera | August 14

My son’s friend came over Saturday to say goodbye. For the last two years, BB (not his real name) had been living in hotel on the southeast side of Boulder.

During regular if infrequent dinners over the years, I have gotten to know him. He is animated and interested in a wide variety of topics. The dinners were fun. He always brought a bottle of wine and helped with the dishes.

The hotel he has been living in has one floor where the rooms are rented by the month for $700 – no deposit required. He told me it’s the cheapest place in Boulder. It’s the last stop on the way to homelessness for many of the occupants. He never intended to stay so long, but couldn’t save enough to move out. His job at a bagel shop didn’t pay much. The rent in Boulder is so high.

Then the pandemic hit. BB’s job evaporated. Initially he couldn’t get unemployment because his driver’s license had expired. He did’t have a car so he hadn’t worried about it. He didn’t want to list the hotel as his address. Eventually, he got the identification and the unemployment money. Enough to get out of town.

Fighting back tears, he told me that the hotel had finally broken him. A young woman recently overdosed on heroine in the hall. He watched the police and paramedics carry her out. Many of the residents struggle with addiction. The longer he stayed, the more he became one of them – one who deserved little, a part of the underclass – living in the shadows.

There are consequences to an economy that works only for the well off. Exclusionary housing policies are part of the problem. A bright young man is broken, and our town is worse off for his leaving.

Judy Amabile