August 22, 2023

I grew up poor in Boulder, Colorado.

According to EFAA data, 1,982 children experience homelessness in the Boulder Valley and St. Vrain school districts and 4,797 children live in poverty in Boulder County. Furthermore, 8.5% of children in Boulder Country don’t always have enough to eat, and more than a third of food insecure people in Boulder County earn too much money to qualify for federal assistance programs.

“(Boulder County) is becoming a community where families with small children just can’t afford to live,” Domelen said.

I grew up poor, in Boulder, Colorado.

I’ve written about it many times—normally acknowledging the many privileges I did enjoy—a loving mom, a safe neighborhood, quality schools. But growing up poor isn’t something to gloss over, on the one hand, or to romanticize, on the other. It was hard, mostly for my mom. She protected me and gave me the gift of treating me with respect, meaning she communicated with me and treated me like the team player I hope I was. But I saw how hard it could be on her, and Iin the shadow of such poverty her remarkable community-driven generosity was and is (she’s still at it) all the more impressive for our lack of means. Her peak salary was, I think, 12,000, as a teacher back then.

And things are worse now, much worse. Homes are unaffordable. Streets are far less safe for biking (texting while driving, huge trucks you can’t see out of the front of, I don’t know what else). Back then we could bike about town all day and let our parents rest or work or whatever and give them a break. That feels like an old-fashioned notion, too often, these days.

But we can work to change that. We can double the rate of affordable, community-fostering housing, according to my recent bike tour with BHP (most of their affordable communities were far more neighborhoody than my single family home-mostly neighborhood). We can save Boulder as a community for the not-just-rich if we work hard and focus on that, urgently, as many here have already done for years. But in 10 or 20 years of seeing more luxury condos filling all available spaces, it could be too late. We need to change the rules for developers so that they can build more of what we actually want and desperately need, including middle-income housing. Make Boulder Weird Again, you know?!

Mobility is the American Dream, not ugly selfish Wealth. Mobility: the chance to, as I was able, start a company and make a living and employ others, say. Elephant Journal’s been going for 22 years, now. We aim to share the good word about the mindful life for another 22. And I couldn’t have done that without my mom, or Boulder. And today, I don’t think Boulder is helping this new generation enough. Our schools are in danger of shuttering—families can’t afford to live here. Employees and even City staff often don’t live in Boulder, because they can’t afford to. Retention is vital, and investing in affordability will benefit all companies in Boulder, and all local restaurants and shops and hospitals and schools and all.

We can make Boulder an example of a kind society, not a stuck-up and green-washing but conservative one.

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