As a mountain resident and Community Resilience Director for Foothills United Way, I have my foot in two different worlds. In the mountains, I live among self-reliant people in tight-knit communities who have chosen to live in the canyons and hills above Boulder. We heat our homes with firewood, are used to the electricity going out, and mobility is incredibly important as we often need to drive to Boulder for groceries, healthcare, and work. Working in the human service realm, I have learned that Boulder County has an incredibly robust safety net, though most agencies don’t know how to directly serve our mountain communities.
Boulder County’s mountain residents, though geographically separated from Boulder, are not immune to the social problems that affect the county as a whole. For low-income mountain folks, geographic isolation can be the difference between having health insurance or not, going to after school activities or not, and getting Medicaid paperwork in on time or not. As home prices soar down below, single-family homes in the mountains are becoming ever more difficult to afford, thus leading to the loss of valuable work force and students for our rural schools. Despite a robust Connect for Health Team, 14.5% of Peak-to-Peak residents are uninsured, compared to 5.2% in the larger Boulder County.
As the Chair of the Peak-to-Peak Housing and Human Services Task Force, I have a unique opportunity to work with community leaders to design better ways to serve our mountain residents. In a partnership with EFAA, Boulder County, The Nederland Food Pantry, and Foothills United Way, we have created a Mountain Resource Liaison position that will bring direct case management to the homes of rural residents. For the first time, our mountain residents in need will not have to make the trek to Boulder to qualify for EFAA or Boulder County services. This new Mountain Resources Liaison and long-time mountain resident, Kristi Venditti, will work to bring the services available in Boulder up to the mountains via door-to-door support for more people. Safety-net services from EFAA and Boulder County will keep our mountain residents from falling through the cracks and provide support when times are tough.
Over the last two years, the Peak to Peak Housing and Human Service Task Force has begun to place an emphasis on strategic planning and data collection as we learning the importance of being able to tell the story of need in our mountain communities.
The new Mountain Resources Liaison position will give us a unique opportunity to collect mountain-specific data that will help continue to show the need as well as document the impact of this work. By increasing the number of mountain residents using vital safety-net services we will see that direct outreach is the best way to lessen the barriers for vulnerable populations. Whether it’s getting help with buying propane, signing up for Medicaid, or learning about the Housing Stabilization Program, we know this new partnership will help build more resilient mountain communities.
Krisiti Venditti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 720.336.2326.