AURORA, Colo (CBS4) – Vacancy rates for the Denver Metro Area have hovered around four percent for the last year. As more people move to the area and rent increases, many families who are doing everything right are falling through the cracks in the tight housing market.
“So when your kids are comfortable with sleeping in the car. That just hurts me to my soul that they’re even comfortable like that, but that’s all we have,” Lisa Fisher cried as she describes her situation to CBS4.
The single mother is living in her car with her kids, ages 15, 13, and 9.
“It’s hard and I don’t like it,” the 9-year-old told CBS4.
“It’s not easy. It’s really tough going day-by-day not knowing what you’re going to eat. Going day-by-day not knowing where you’re going to be staying. It’s not easy,” 15-year-old Sajied said.
Fisher and her kids live like this because she can’t find a home in the Colorado housing market.
“When you become homeless, you fight the fight to pull yourself out of that. And I believe in my heart that I’ve done that, and yet I’m still homeless,” Fisher said.
Fisher is fighting the fight.
She works at a shoe store making less than $800 a month, she picks up odd jobs like babysitting, and she’s recently gotten job at King Soopers. It’s still not enough to pay for an apartment.
Every day, I’m asking myself, ‘What’s going to happen now? What’s going to happen today? What’s going to happen tomorrow?’” Fisher said.
She’s got a half-dozen advocates with a half-dozen agencies working on her behalf. She’s on the five-year waiting lists of five different housing authorities. She qualifies for a transitional housing program in Jefferson County called Stride. Stride offers case management for two years, providing rental assistance and one-on-one help with budgeting and financial self-sufficiency.
“The goal really is for them to maintain permanent housing, increase their earned income… or other sources of income… so they become stable,” said Sarah Maxwell, the executive director of Stride.
Maxwell has worked with the organization for 11 years. She said that this is the tightest she’s ever seen the housing market.
“In the past, we’ve literally housed people in a week,” Maxwell told CBS4.
Stride usually gives people 30 to 60 days to find a house or they risk getting dropped from the program. Fisher has been looking now for more than 90 days.
She goes to the Aurora Public Library to access the internet. Fisher is working with a licensed realtor to try to find a place.
“I would say 80-plus percent of rentals that meet her criteria blatantly announce on their listings that they don’t want to work with anyone who needs special housing,” said Kelli Hernandez, realtor with Deerwoods Real Estate Management.
Hernandez is a friend of a friend, who thought her knowledge of the market would help Fisher find a place fast. She has been frustrated in her efforts. She said that in addition to landlords refusing housing vouchers, there is simply a lack of available houses and apartments that would meet Fisher’s need.
“It makes me sick to my stomach that a family like Lisa’s who has been approved for housing is still living on the streets,” Hernandez said.
Fisher has applied for dozens of different units, spending $40 to $65 every time in applications fees.
“I’d say up to this point… pretty close to $400 in application fees… just to be turned down,” Fisher explained.
She said that paying to apply has put her behind on all her other bills, including her car payment.
“If my car gets taken away, our only home will be gone,” Fisher said.
This family prays every day for the break that will get them back together under one roof.