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EDITORIAL: Colorado attracts desperate migrants

By: The Gazette editorial board
January 4, 2018 Updated: January 4, 2018 at 11:56 am
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A modern John Steinbeck could visit Pueblo to write a 21st Century "Grapes of Wrath."

Charities could provide details of desperate migrants seeking a mirage of marijuana riches, much like Steinbeck's Oklahoma characters sought seemingly futile economic salvation in California agriculture.

Our great neighbor to the south thrived as Colorado's "Second City" during the heyday of American steel production. The community, known for a generational work ethic, suffers economically from decades of the country's shift to a service-based economy.

Pueblo's median household income in 2016 dollars is $35,770, compared to the state average of $62,520. Environmental utility mandates, mostly advanced by wealthier Colorado enclaves, burden working-class households with soaring electric rates that cause bare cupboards and delinquent bills.

A variety of additional economic challenges understandably led Pueblo to embrace pot commercialization as a potential new industry to save the economy. In doing so, the community inadvertently gained the fake image of the modern land of opportunity.

"More than anywhere else in Colorado, Pueblo tied its future to the marijuana jobs, tax revenues and other economic benefits," explained a Los Angeles Times story in 2016.

The Times told of Pueblo's marijuana migrants, including a struggling Oklahoma man who moved expecting "an Oasis" that would save him. Other media tell of Colorado's marijuana migrants living in boxes and shacks, using buckets as toilets.

"Robert Dear Jr.'s arrival here was part of a frenetic migration some locals derisively call the 'green rush,' " explains a Denver Post article about Planned Parenthood shooting suspect Robert Lewis Dear, Jr.

Few migrants find jobs in commercial pot, and often show up on doorsteps of charities established to help locals. Newcomers overwhelm the nonprofits to the point a Pueblo homeless charity recently posted a message that tells pot migrants to stay home.

"Posada blames weed for homeless influx in Pueblo." says the headline of a Colorado Springs Independent story.

"IF YOU'RE THINKING OF RELOCATING TO PUEBLO, PLEASE READ," exclaims the headline above the notice on PosadaPueblo.org. It continues:

"Posada has been experiencing unprecedented increases in people in need of services. Many families and individuals are relocating to Pueblo for legal marijuana, benefit acquisition (as Colorado is a Medicaid Expansion State) and the perceived affordability of housing. Posada like many other local nonprofit agencies cannot keep up with the increase and has had to develop an internal matrix to assist case managers in prioritizing homeless families in need of shelter. The agency works off the basic principle of 'Pueblo First, Compassion for All.'

"Local Pueblo families are referred when there is space at Posada's Elko Shelter (an emergency shelter with 11 units.) The demand far exceeds the vacancy rate and families are being housed in local motels for short periods of time. Pueblo families are always given priority! If you are a family who ends up on our doorstep from out of state without support, beside limited case management, a possible night in a motel (depending on availability) and limited transportation assistance to another community with better prospects, Posada will not be able to assist you in long term shelter, refer you to housing or to local benefits."

Posada's post explains "Marijuana industry" jobs are hard to get, requiring a year of Colorado residence, a background check, and a negative drug test result.

Marijuana, Posada explains, "is illegal by Federal Standards and all of Posada's housing and supportive service programs follow Federal Guidelines."

Other directors of Colorado's major homeless shelters tell The Gazette how commercialization draws problematic numbers of homeless migrants, and others who become homeless after hopes of pot jobs fall flat.

Posada advises prospective migrants to stay put unless they have proper identification, a guarantee of full-time employment, first and last month's rent, a deposit worth three months rent, and at least $500 "for an electric deposit."

Take their advice. Avoid the perils of marijuana's elusive Colorado dream.

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