Growing a Sustainable Life

The glow of the morning’s sun swept over the flora of Angela’s garden, breathing life into the simple riches. “The morning is the most beautiful at my yard,” she said.

“I have the fortune of having Jane be the person who lived here before me. Jane loved flowers and she left this home filled with so many beautiful and colorful life.”

As a community activist, Angela’s life is dedicated to growing community strength and connecting people to resources and different programs available. “I’m very much a community person. I love feeling in community. I have great relationships with the neighbors I have around me, and I use my work to find opportunities for others.” One of her recent projects provided Mapleton Mobile Home Park residents with a mini-grant to use in the community garden in this community to increase production of vegetables, fruits and foster a pollinator habitat. However, to grow gardens, community, and opportunities requires housing stability.

Growing up in Colombia, Angela was always on the move with her family. She relocated to Colorado in 2001 and then to Boulder in 2003. Wanting to put down roots for her child as a single mom and an immigrant has been challenging. “One of the most detrimental living situations that we can provide to our children is that lack of stability. It was very important to me to provide this for my child, but I felt like the system was not designed to really help me achieve it.”

Though Jane, the original owner of Angela’s home, sold her trailer below market value to Angela, the process for taking this big step towards self-sufficiency was difficult. “One of the big reasons I wanted to live here was that as a single parent and an immigrant, I lack the family and that sense of village needed to raise children. I used to live next door to the trailer park in the Boulder Housing Partners Family Self-Sufficiency Program (FSS) for about 4 ½ years. The program only allows families to live there for five years. While participating in the FSS Program, I was able to have some of that sense of community. I felt that many eyes were looking at children with love and the desire to help raise them in positive ways. For my son, I wanted to stay in an area that he already knew so well. He had been biking and walking with his friends in this neighborhood for years.”

Raised Beds, photo courtesy of Angela

For Angela and her young son, the process for getting into the park was “really complicated and painful.” Her current home, a 2016, 960 square foot Skyline, was her third attempt to move into the Mapleton Mobile Home Park. Each potential resident must income and asset qualify for each of the subsidized income tiers. Finding an appropriately sized home, in good condition, in the timeframe needed, and meeting the specific income/asset requirements can be like trying to win the lottery. So, when a home becomes available, you’ve essentially won the lotto, without the money – which finding it is the next complicated hurdle.

“I got the loan, but the loans for manufactured homes get incredibly high interest rates. So, even though I’m in the lower end for income, I’m still paying 9% interest. I’m paying like $30,000.00 over what they asked from me just in interest. And there are people I know who are getting 14%, which I think is another predatorial way to put us at a disadvantage in home ownership and stable housing in this city.”

For many folks who are facing disadvantages due to factors such as income, language, education, and/or race, navigating resource systems can be, as Angela explained, “complicated, frustrating, and disheartening. I can only imagine those people that have to navigate the system without understanding the language and having the resources that I have.”

Despite the challenges, Angela is incredibly grateful for the Mapleton community and for residents, who, much like herself, are “stepping into their power and their leadership to advocate for our rights here.”

Angela and Indya, photo courtesy of Angela

When I asked if she had any advice for people wanting to know about the challenges of living in affordable or low-income housing, she said, “My first advice would be to remove any previous stereotypes about the people and the kind of community that lives here.”

“When most people think of a trailer park the initial thoughts that come to mind are not very positive – at least that was what use to happen to me. The way these communities are stigmatized in movies is very detrimental – people are usually depicted as those members of society who are unwanted by the dominant communities and are pushed aside into these parks.” But she has learned otherwise and encourages others to do the same.

“I say, come into our communities, come visit us, come talk to us, and listen to what people have to say and learn about our needs.  Please start seeing these communities, not from the deficit perspective, but more of a celebratory, collaborative, and co-creative space in your mind and heart. Give us an opportunity to show you and teach you how to live with less and still be happy and complete.”

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Published by Torres Photography LLC

Critical Observation, Compassionate Understanding

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