Voces Unidas calls on community to support group of 80 unhoused Latinos living under bridge
Voces Unidas, in partnership with the Office of Rep. Elizabeth Velasco (HD57), has begun to organize a group of 80 unhoused Latinos living in cars and under a bridge in Carbondale.
Last Saturday, we learned through social media and informal community channels that an estimated 40-plus Venezuelan immigrants were taking refuge below the Carbondale bridge along the Roaring Fork River with few resources and little support, resulting in an unexpected homelessness crisis and frequent negative interactions with local police.
Our initial visit confirmed that the number of unhoused Latinos encamped near the Carbondale bridge is actually much higher. We also heard testimony about their experiences with local police and businesses, and learned that local government and nonprofits had not yet connected with this group to help support their needs.
On Sunday evening, Voces Unidas mobilized a rapid response team made up of staff and volunteers to conduct needs assessments for some 80 adults. The data collected is being used to determine which area nonprofits, town officials, and state and federal agencies to engage in further conversations.
The Polis administration, including the governor’s New American Office, also worked with us over the weekend. Representatives of U.S Senators John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet have also been involved. Both state and federal partners understand that our mountain communities need additional resources in order to meet the short- and long-term needs of new arrivals, and have been responsive to our requests.
Baseline information suggests that most of those in the makeshift encampment are adult males, primarily from Venezuela. At least one person is Colombian. Most came through Denver, and most have arrived within the last two weeks, although some have been here longer. Many, if not most, could qualify for the current extension to Temporary Protective Status being offered to Venezuelan immigrants, but all say they need legal counsel and support to confirm eligibility and complete the process.
Urgent short-term needs include finding a stable place to park their cars without police removing them, along with the basic human needs of access to housing, access to food, and access to a job. Everyone at the encampment is seeking permanent housing options, however many need rental assistance and help identifying housing. Some who have found work opportunities said they have the financial resources to pay for housing but face challenges meeting the requirements for a lease, such as proof of income, rental history, and proof of residence.
Several have had work opportunities, primarily as day laborers, either hired through an employment agency or recruited by private individuals. However, at least five people alleged wage theft when dealing with private individuals, and a handful of people reported having experienced discrimination or some other form of negative treatment since they arrived in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Voces Unidas is working with a committee of representatives from the larger group to enlist support for both short- and long-term needs from local government and nonprofits, thus far convening several nonprofit organizations to meet with the committee in an effort to deliver essential human services. We are also working with town leadership and convening regional meetings to address the stresses placed on human services in central-mountain communities as the unhoused community continues to grow.
Our gratitude goes out to all who have rallied to support this group of unhoused Latinos in their time of need and we ask for continued community support as this pressing situation unfolds.