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Housing office evicts unemployed woman from Truscott Place studio

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – The Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority has served a three-year resident of Truscott Place with the demand that she leave her studio apartment by April 1.

Susan C. Johnson, who does not meet eligibility rules that require her to hold a steady job, met with the housing authority’s board on Feb. 1 to offer proof that she’s been actively seeking employment. The board gave her until the end of February to find a job within the county that would employ her for at least 29 hours a week.

Johnson, 54, said she has never been late on rent, which board members said last month has no bearing on her situation. She said she’s tried to find work just about everywhere in the area but that there have been no takers.

She’s been living off unemployment and odd jobs for the past 22 months since being laid off from the Aspen Homeless Shelter. She was homeless for much of 2004 to 2009 before getting a job with the shelter.

“I came home from a house-sitting job in Snowmass Village the other night, and I found this letter on my front door, a notice to vacate,” she said Friday. “I’m not sure what I’m going to do or where I’ll go.

“I’m having a hell of a time finding a job, and I’m not going to be able to get housing anywhere if I don’t have a job. You can’t get a job if you don’t have a place to live. I have a sister in California, and I’m seriously considering going out there even though I’ve lived here for 30-odd years.”

Johnson said the process of trying to become compliant with the housing authority has left her confused. On March 5, she received a “demand for compliance” notice on her front door. Feeling she was being given a slight reprieve, she told the housing office she was in the process of starting her own business and printing business cards in an effort to achieve self-employment status under the rules.

Last week, the notice to vacate was posted on her door along with a letter dated March 13 that said the demand for compliance was an error.

“Dear Susan, I regret to tell you that the Demand for Compliance that was posted on your door on the 5th was an error,” the letter from property management supervisor Cindy Tucker-Davis states. “It was my fault as I was not aware that the process was to begin with the notice to vacate. I apologize for leading you to believe you had 10 days to prove employment. That is NOT correct.”

According to Tucker-Davis, the housing authority’s attorney, Tom Smith, informed her that the board on Feb. 1 ruled in a 2-1 vote that she had to be out by Feb. 29.

“Since you failed to do that, I am now issuing you a Notice to Vacate signed by Tom Smith,” the letter continues. ” … This notice is not curable, meaning that we will not accept any proof of employment at all.”

Johnson said the different notices with different demands have left her exasperated.

“I’m a little bit pissed off because I’ve been getting a different story every day,” she said.

Board member Marcia Goshorn, who cast the only vote in Johnson’s favor on Feb. 1, said people older than 50 have a tough time finding work in Aspen’s up-and-down resort economy. But Chairwoman Kristin Sabel and board member Ron Erickson were in the majority, voting to uphold housing authority rules to the letter.

Johnson said she hasn’t been picky in her quest to find work.

“I’ve applied at the grocery stores. I’ve applied at the T-shirt shops. I’ve sent out more than 1,000 resumes. There are so many people looking for work. I’m like one out of 100 people applying for every job,” Johnson said.

asalvail@aspentimes.com


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