As hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan migrants escape hyperinflationsome of them have adopted the mountain towns of Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley as their sanctuary.
The small town of Carbondale is currently working with a group of approximately 80 immigrants looking for work. Most sleep in cars in the cold until they can find better shelter options.
A nonprofit, 3rd Street Center, has been kind enough to offer them the gym for overnight stays, but that’s not a permanent or comfortable solution without bathrooms, showers, or a kitchen.
Asdrúbal Aborado and Wilson José Remerez Cadabajo have similar stories. They both came from Venezuela looking for a better life for themselves and their families. They both have positive attitudes and are willing to take on any type of job to help support their families. They both know the kind of burden that many people seeking shelter can place on a community and they don’t take it lightly. When asked how people can help them, they had the same answer.
“With work,” the couple said, sitting in the back of a U-Haul truck.
A local Carbondale resident was kind enough to hire them to help them move in exchange for cash.
“We don’t want to be a burden on this community, a burden,” one said.
“We don’t want to be an obligation for these people, an extra responsibility, all we need is a job. With a job we have everything,” said another.
Aborado said that within his group he has workers with all kinds of different experiences.
“Among us there are carpenters, plumbers, painters, remodelers, they can do anything,” he said. “I have universities that are civil engineers, auto mechanics, industrial engineers with us, we just need a job.”
It is not only about their own survival, but also about their families who are still in their home country. Things have gotten so tough that it’s hard to feed people on the standard salary of a job there.
“A standard salary for Venezuela would be equivalent to 10 dollars a month,” Aborado said. “If I buy a bag of flour, you don’t buy cheese, if you buy cheese, you don’t buy meat.”
Part of the reason they are in Carbondale is that their days are running out in Denver shelters. The people in the group heard that there might be jobs for people like them near Aspen, so they pooled their money, bought cars, and drove there. Those cars now function as their homes, where they store everything they own. If they can no longer stay at the gym at night, they will have to sleep in cars, which has been a miserable experience so far.
“The first time we saw snow we were in Denver and it hit hard, we spent all day and night with the car running,” Cadabajo said. “In God’s name, this will be solved when the snow comes, hopefully we will find work and have a place to stay.”
Carbondale Mayor Ben Bohmfalk said that while they don’t even have a homeless shelter to help populations like this, they are an immigrant community themselves. While they are not even sure how they are going to handle so many people, they will try and hope to receive help from neighboring county governments and the state, although so far they are alone in this effort to support them. Bohmfalk said they are hopeful they can find solutions for these people, but they would be overwhelmed if more people looking for help showed up at their door.