New group tackles housing crisis |

New group tackles housing crisis

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” A new regional organization called Congregations And Schools Empowered, or CASE ” a “faith-based” community organizing effort ” is holding a regional meeting on April 30 to discuss the ongoing “attainable housing” crisis in communities from Aspen to Parachute.

The meeting is set for 7 p.m. at St. Stephen’s Church, 1885 Blake Ave. in Glenwood Springs and is expected to last about 90 minutes, according to organizer Tom Ziemann of CASE.

This is the first valleywide meeting on the topic of “our shared housing concerns,” according to organizers, and elected officials from throughout the region are expected to attend and participate.

Organizers are hoping members of the public who have concerns about finding a place to live in this region will also show up and let their voices be heard.

“We’re expecting families to come out,” said one of the organizers, Tom Ziemann of the Catholic Charities organization. “We’re interested in creating a dialogue about the most important issue in the valley, bar none.”

That dialogue, he said, must take place among local elected officials, citizens and housing activists in order to solve what has commonly been referred to as the housing “crisis.”

In addition to government officials, Ziemann said, there will be time set aside for “testimony” from citizens, including such diverse groups as residents of two trailer parks in Basalt that are destined for redevelopment; small-business owners who have a hard time finding employees due to housing shortages; Parachute oil industry workers who are living in hotels because no affordable housing is available; and others.

Ziemann, who has been working for Catholic Charities in the valley for the past seven years, said CASE got started conceptually about five years ago when a gathering of activists were brainstorming ways to solve a variety of local problems.

Using a California-based model for community organizing, and aligning themselves with a Denver nonprofit known as Metro Organizations for People, CASE got its formal start a year ago and immediately focused on raising money and creating subcommittees linked to certain area churches to work on issues such as housing.

The St. Stephen’s group is the furthest along, he said, and it recently conducted a survey of hundreds of local residents, Anglos and Hispanics alike, to learn what issues concerned them the most. The answer was, perhaps not surprisingly, housing.

Ziemann said the St. Stephen’s committee has been doing research into the current status of housing regulations and government initiatives, as well as what’s happening in the private sector ” information it plans to share at the April 30 meeting.

Elected representatives from Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin counties have been invited, as well as from the nine municipalities in the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys that are the focus of CASE’s attentions.

Although the meeting was scheduled for the fifth Monday of the month, a date that most local governments view as a day off from regular municipal meetings, some city officials have said they cannot attend. Aspen’s City Council, for instance, is holding a public hearing that day, Ziemann said, and may not be represented.

One point Ziemann stressed is that the meeting on April 30 is to talk about “attainable housing” as opposed to the long-used phrase, “affordable housing,” which he said has become “absurd” in the eyes of local workers.

“It means nothing anymore to talk about ‘affordable housing,'” he said, noting that there are million-dollar homes that are called “affordable.”

What workers need, he said, is “something they can attain.”

The new terminology, he said, “is just something we’ve been hearing other communities talk about. We like that idea of changing the language, so people can get what we’re talking about. It’s just part of our strategy to change the dialogue … change the whole tone of the discussion.”

Child care will be provided in the basement of the church.

For information, contact the CASE office at 384-2060, extension 4.

John Colson’s e-mail address is

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