Family of seven shares one-room ‘home’
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
CARBONDALE ” Since Jeff and Colleen Smith moved to the Roaring Fork Valley five years ago, they’ve struggled to find a place to call home.
To their 5-year-old son, David, the annual move to a new home is just a part of life. The Smiths have had to move at least once a year in the five years they’ve been here.
That takes a toll on a family.
“It’s stressful,” Colleen said. “Knowing that you are there but you’ll have to find another place in a year, it’s stressful.”
The Smiths have four more children, Ashley, 13, Christian, 11, Kyra, 7, and June, 3. A conversation with the family at the Church of Carbondale reveals the closeness of this family, June on Colleen’s lap, Jeff reading to his son David. But the Smiths give new meaning to the word “close.”
Currently, the family of seven share one 12-by-14-foot room Jeff rents from a church friend for $500 a month. The room is just big enough for an inflatable mattress for Jeff and Colleen (the children sleep in sleeping bags), a computer desk and the family’s clothes. It’s the only affordable place for Jeff right now.
“It’s been hard for us,” Jeff admitted. “We’ve got five kids and no one wants to rent a three-bedroom house to a family of seven. But that’s what we can afford.”
It got to the point that Jeff was ready to pack up the family’s Jeep Wagoneer, which isn’t much smaller than the room they rent, and take his family back to California.
“We weren’t going to be able to stay,” Jeff said. “How is anyone expected to make it here on a single income and rent prices doubled what they were five years ago?”
But Jeff wasn’t quite ready to give up on the Roaring Fork Valley, and the Roaring Fork Valley wasn’t ready to give up on the Smiths, either.
That’s when he got his question answered. The answer he received came from Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork Valley last spring when they chose the Smiths to be the recipients of the next Habitat project in Carbondale.
It’s an understatement to say the Smiths were pleased.
“It was hard to accept at first,” Jeff said. “I felt that we weren’t the most needy family that applied for the home.”
Jeff and Colleen didn’t know exactly how to act at first, but the idea of a new home grew on them. Being so close to their dream, a place where they could raise their five children in a stable environment, brings a smile to Colleen’s face.
“The most exciting thing will be not having to move every year,” she said.
Colleen is excited for her family, being able to provide a childhood similar to hers where she lived in the same house for the better part of 18 years.
“Ashley is greatly excited,” Colleen said. “She’s had to share a bed, not only a room, her whole life. She’s excited to get her own room.”
The Smiths will have to stay in their room for now. Groundbreaking for their new home isn’t planned until October. But, in a valley where the landscape is peppered with multi-tiered dream homes, it’s nice to see one 13-year-old girl’s dream of having her own bedroom come true.
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A driver looking to squeeze one last four-wheel drive up Aspen Mountain discovered that it’s not the ascent but the decent that poses a challenge.