Aspen housing office closed to walk-in visitors after threats to staff
Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority employees bear the brunt of angry, frustrated and desperate people
Due to threats to staff, the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority has closed its office to walk-in traffic.
The move was made after an individual who is being evicted from his apartment at Truscott Place, located at the Aspen golf course where APCHA’s office is, turned his anger toward employees.
“We have restricted access to the APCHA office in response to credible threats against staff by residents,” said APCHA Executive Director Matthew Gillen, declining to identify the individual who is being evicted. “It’s an inconvenience and we would love to have the doors open, but I have to protect the staff.”
APCHA Deputy Director Cindy Christensen, who has worked for the agency for three decades, said threats against staff and distrust of APCHA have intensified in recent years.
“It’s hatred, I have to say it; people are abusive, they yell and scream at us and we’ve even had sexual innuendos,” she said. “We are only abiding by the rules and asking people to do the same and we get vilified in the press and people we run into on the street, and I don’t quite understand it.”
APCHA made the move this past spring to close the office to walk-in traffic. People can still call to make an appointment or ring a doorbell at the front door during regular office hours to be let in to talk to staff.
“We want to be helpful and provide a service and I don’t think it’s affected that,” Gillen said.
A former diplomat for the U.S. State Department, Gillen is keen on safety and recognized that the Truscott office needed more security and cut off access to side doors that are now controlled by key cards.
Christensen said because APCHA serves as the landlord of Truscott units, the incidents of aggression against staff have increased since the office was relocated there from downtown Aspen.
People get upset when their leases are terminated, or if they don’t qualify or if there are no units available, for example.
Some aggressors falsely believe that APCHA controls privately owned and managed complexes like Castle Ridge, and demand they be allowed to live there.
“They see it as an entitlement and I see it as someone who lives in employee housing, that it’s a privilege,” Christensen said.
When a person’s lease is ending at an APCHA-run complex, it is not the first time that individual has had conversations with staff and they typically have been put on notice to rectify their situation.
“So many people would relish the chance to live out here,” Christensen said. “We have kept a lot of people who are problematic.”