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Colorado Community Media journalists spent months digging into the factors that caused — and solutions to — the affordable housing crisis. Find all stories in the project at our overview here.
Lisa Hojeboom has a new place to call home.
It’s a one-bedroom apartment near Chatfield Dam complete with a walk-out basement, a washing machine and a neighbor’s water feature “that sounds like a babbling brook.”
It’s quite a change. Hojeboom spent a year and a half living in places other than apartments. She lived in her car. She lived in a shelter. She lived at the Northglenn Recreation Center, where she slept on the floor of the gym and could get a 30-minute shower for $4.50.
“The first thing I did when I moved in was soak in a hot tub,” she said. “It was so nice.”
She was among many forced out of living arrangements because of the high cost of housing.
“I never pictured myself in that situation,” she said. “I did what I had to do.”
Hojeboom lived with her brother, but soon had to move.
“New owners bought the place, and they were going to raise the rent,” she said. “When my brother found out, he bailed. I had no job. I had just broken my elbow and was out of work for six months. I was getting hired for full-time work and getting part-time hours.”
On top of that, Hojeboom said, she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and was on medication, making it difficult to work, not to mention driving to work.
But she did. She did it while struggling with numerous other health issues — from a blockage in her small intestine to insomnia. Through multiple visits to the hospital and bouts of extreme pain, she held onto various jobs.
After losing her home she went looking for a new place to live. But the $1,400 per month rents she could find were out of her price range.
“There’s nothing to live on,” she said, a reference to how little money she would have left after paying rent. “It’s ridiculous. I wasn’t the only one in this situation.”
She felt she had no other option.
“I couldn’t afford living anywhere except my car,” she said. “I saw no end. I couldn’t afford rent.”
Hojeboom found herself living on the streets.
“There was one industrial street in Thornton, LeRoy Drive,” she said. “One of the parks had a flush toilet. I was never harassed. But when I got to Northglenn, the police told me I couldn’t stay on the streets overnight. I stayed employed through this.”
She even worked in airport security. Hojeboom also had a job as a construction site flagger, one that paid employees by the day. While she was recuperating from illness, she carried a cardboard sign to solicit money.
“I was fortunate,” she said. “It was Christmas and people were generous. I made $200. I froze my ass off, but I did what I had to do.”
Eventually, Hojeboom got into the City of Northglenn’s temporary winter housing program, which ran from December 2021 and ended in August. The partnership between Adams County, the city and the Denver Rescue Mission opened a temporary, 25-bed program inside the former Northglenn Recreation Center.
Northglenn’s program has since ended, but more programs are coming. Voters in November approved a ballot measure earmarking tax revenue for affordable housing, and Gov. Jared Polis made the issue a point of emphasis in his ongoing agenda.
Those who took advantage of the program met with case managers once a month.
“I slept on the gym floor on a mat for the last six months,” she told Colorado Community Media last year. “We were given breakfast, a sack lunch, a shower and a warm place to stay.”
Finding a permanent place wasn’t easy.
“I responded to five ads,” she said. “Only one was legitimate. The rest were scams. I thought, ‘I’m not going to give you information if that’s the way you roll.’”
The one legitimate ad turned into her new home near Chatfield Dam. It’s the first time she’s had roommates. The city of Northglenn paid her deposit and gave her $200 more than what was necessary to secure the unit.
It’s quite a turnaround. She’d owned her own home at one point.
“I am not a loser,” Hojeboom said. “I’ve had success in my life. My career just took some bad twists. Breaking my elbow? That sucks. Not collecting disability? That sucks.”
“Being homeless sucks. I went to a food pantry, but I had no refrigeration,” she added. “I had a cooler, but I couldn’t keep food. My eating habits were not ideal.”
“It’s been a trip.”
She landed a job as a medical transport driver for a firm associated with the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.
“My personality is perseverance, but I’m worried for people who don’t have it together,” she said. “What do landlords expect? They are pricing everyone out of the market. Interest rates are going up, which will make it harder to find homes.”
She drives a Jeep Wagoneer for her job.
“I never wanted to wave a cardboard sign,” Hojeboom added. “I’m resilient. I’m a diehard. I smile through the face of adversity. People like my spirit. I was an inspiration to a lot of people.”