SALIDA, Colorado – The city of Salida, in southern Colorado, approved an ordinance that allows local workers, the vast majority of whom are Hispanic, to sleep in their vehicles starting this Friday, June 24, because, due to the high cost of rents, cannot find housing and could leave area businesses without employees.
The program, known as “Safe Space Outdoors,” or SOS for its acronym in English, is the first of its kind in Colorado and is a pilot experience that could later be extended to other cities and counties in this state that face similar situations.
WHAT IS THE COST OF A DEPARTURE RENTAL?
In the case of Salida, the average rental cost of a one-bedroom home is about $1,200 a month, close to the $1,300 average monthly rent in Denver for a similar home. But while in Denver the median annual income is $65,000, in Salida it is $26,000, according to the Census Bureau.
That means that while Denver residents spend on average nearly 25% of their income paying for their home rent, workers in Salida must spend just over 55%.
For this reason, “many restaurant employees, many tour guides and even many professionals have problems paying for a place to live in Chaffee County and they end up sleeping in their vehicles in various places, with or without authorization,” explained Cory Riggs, a local activist who promoted the project.
WHAT ARE THE STATE AUTHORITIES DOING?
The measure is supported by the Chaffee County Board of County Commissioners and the Salida City Council, which together will allocate spaces on streets, parking lots and city campsites where workers can sleep in their vehicles, and offer health services and police surveillance.
In addition, the county’s Housing and Public Health departments will assist, as needed, people sleeping in their cars. And it is anticipated that local businesses (restaurants, supermarkets, laundromats) will offer discounts to those people.
So far, Councilwoman Jane Templeton told Colorado Public Radio, two people have already been approved for the program and “several others” have already completed their applications and are expected to be approved in the coming days.
City officials estimate that dozens, and perhaps hundreds, of people could participate in SOS between now and the program likely to end at the end of October; that is, during the fall and with the arrival of low temperatures.
Simultaneously, with the help of the state government, Salida and Chaffee County they work to provide affordable housing for workers, whether through subsidies, agreements with short-term rental homeowners, or new construction.
“It’s not going to be perfect. I want the citizens to know. But we have to act,” said the councilor.
So far, there are no federal or state laws in the United States that explicitly prohibit sleeping in the car, but there are numerous prohibitions against parking on private property or “camping” in urban areas or even in public areas (such as rest areas along highways). ).
In this context, the new ordinance implemented in Salida that allows sleeping inside a vehicle on city streets It is considered a pioneering measure at the national level.