Aspen’s doors open to refugees, now let’s also open our hearts
Kudos to the Aspen City Council for agreeing this week to open up a handful of vacant affordable housing units to victims of Hurricane Katrina. Generously, the City Council agreed to spend up to $60,000 to cover the rent at those units for the next three months. The decision has been a long time coming, really. We live in one of the wealthiest communities in the world, and we’ve got empty units in the seasonal housing enclaves at the Marolt Open Space and Buttermilk. So why not open 10 apartments for people – fellow citizens – whose lives have been so drastically altered? Certainly we can afford to house and support victims for a few months.Now that the city’s elected officials have made a commitment, the rest of us can step up, as well. Employers can think about temporary work that might be offered to those who come here. So too can homeowners looking to have work done on their property over the offseason. Local supermarkets might donate a week or two’s worth of groceries while the new affordable-housing tenants adjust to life here. Maybe the Roaring Fork Transit Authority can offer free bus passes to the relocatees. There are a lot of ways we can share ourselves and our community.Valid concerns have been raised about the wisdom of relocating people who may not have much in the way of support or resources to such an expensive locale. The sticker shock of living here for some victims might indeed be difficult to handle at first. But some of Mexico’s poorest uneducated peasants make the same cost-of-living adjustment, as do some of America’s most privileged sons and daughters. We suspect the victims of Hurricane Katrina will adjust the same way everyone else does.The important thing is that by opening its doors, Aspen now has the potential to change – for the better – the lives of people who face an uncertain and frightening future. It’s the least we can do.
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