I spent much of this year traveling the Denver area, particularly Jefferson County, covering stories for the Jeffco Transcript. As I worked, I was also looking for a home for my family. We lived in a hotel in Centennial for six months before I found a home. Along the way, I learned things about the housing crisis that were surprising. And it is a crisis of both affordability and availability, as Colorado Community Media covered in a four-week series earlier this year called “The Long Way Home.”

All of these things I shared with reporter Elizabeth Hernandez of The Denver Post. Her article, “Colorado’s housing market is so strained it’s endangering domestic violence victims, advocates say,” offers some of my intense backstory. In that article and one I wrote for Yes! Magazine “Cheat Codes for Domestic Violence Survivors,” share some things that I learned while trying to find a home.

Here are the things you should know:

The waitlists for affordable housing are long. While there’s affordable housing across the state, there are not enough homes to go around. However, this does not mean that there are zero openings. It just means you will need a little help to get into a place if you are low-income or unhoused.

Consider each application before submitting. Applying everywhere increases the chances of getting a place, but the application fees are high. They are refundable but those refunds sometimes take months to come back to you. Your credit score also takes a hit with every application, which can hurt if you don’t find a place quickly.

Seek out assistance from local government. This is for people who are unhoused, low-income, unemployed and families with children in need of affordable housing. Agencies are dialed into the affordable housing field and know the organizations and programs that can help. Workers will also make referrals and put in calls to help you get past the voicemail queues.

Departments of human services are like an umbrella under which several agencies are collected. If the housing navigators can’t help, another agency may step in. I got assistance in getting my place through a DHS agency that helps with work. I have a job, but I was technically homeless because I lived in a hotel. They were able to use funds to help me get a place because a stable home is needed for long-term employment.

Don’t be ashamed or scared to share your story. If you or someone else needs assistance, tell them everything you can about your background. Don’t be scared. There are hordes of organizations out there trying to alleviate this housing crisis. Each has their own qualifications. Programs for veterans, the family of vets, domestic violence survivors, artists and more. Share your story without shame. It will only help in finding affordable housing assistance.

The system is fraught with barriers for the people who are already struggling to survive. In Jefferson County, you can begin searching at Foothills Regional Housing, Metro West Housing Solutions and the Jefferson County Department of Human Services. If you or anyone you know is experiencing domestic violence, call the domestic violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233. You can also visit ViolenceFreeColorado.org for a list of shelters and other emergency help. There is help out there if you take that first step and reach out.

Jo Davis is the Jeffco Transcript reporter. She can be reached at jdavis@coloradocommunitymedia.com. This column originally ran in the weekly Jeffco Transcript newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter here.

This article has been updated to correct the name of the Denver Post reporter.

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