Aspen offers free housing to refugees | AspenTimes.com

Aspen offers free housing to refugees

Janet Urquhart

Aspen will pay up to $60,000 in rent for Hurricane Katrina evacuees who want to relocate to the resort and stay in either of the city’s two seasonal worker housing complexes.The City Council agreed Monday to cover the rent for hurricane refugees through December and called upon local employers to line up jobs for anyone who takes Aspen up on the housing offer.Up to 10 units at Marolt, off Castle Creek Road, and/or Burlingame Housing Inc. – the worker apartments across the highway from Buttermilk – will be made available to refugees, with the city’s housing fund picking up the rent and security deposit.The Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority will ask refugees to meet the employment requirements that come with the housing by Thanksgiving and ask that they arrange for roommates, said Maureen Dobson, housing director. The units each accommodate two or three tenants.If all 10 units were leased to Katrina victims immediately and subsidized through Dec. 31, the city would pay out roughly $60,000 at the most, Dobson said. Since there’s only one individual who could take the city up on the offer right now, the subsidy won’t amount to the maximum. One displaced woman from the Gulf Coast, who has ties in Aspen, has already arranged to take a BHI unit, Dobson said.Giving the refugees until Thanksgiving to come up with a job is what the housing office essentially asks of any ski-season renter at the two complexes, according to Dobson.”In the normal guidelines, anybody has until Thanksgiving to prove employment,” she said.Those who arrange a job for the winter season can stay in the unit beyond the free-rent period, noted Mayor Helen Klanderud. But starting Jan. 1, they’d pay their own way.”If people got jobs by tomorrow or next month or by Dec. 31, they could stay in the housing because they’re employed,” she said.”I like the idea of, let’s reach out here and see what we can accomplish,” Klanderud added.There are likely employers who would like to help refugees but don’t want to “dump them on Aspen’s housing scene,” said Councilwoman Rachel Richards. Covering someone’s rent through December can be the city’s way of helping transplants if the business community can provide the jobs, she reasoned.Employers who’d like to arrange a job for a hurricane victim should contact Vince Savage, who has taken on the role of case management for Valley Information and Assistance, at 544-5545.The council also agreed to put $5,000 toward a pickup truck with a camper top that will serve as a mobile command center for Carbondale’s effort to “adopt” the hurricane-stricken town of Pearlington, Miss. Other local governments appear poised to help Carbondale with the cost of the vehicle, as well, according to City Manager Steve Barwick. The vehicle will allow area residents to go to Pearlington and live out of the camper while they’re there. Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com

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