Cheryl and her husband David had been together for 36 years, ever since they met at the age of 20. The two became community fixtures in Nederland—David a master builder of luxury mountain homes and Cheryl a beloved volunteer turned staff member at a local senior home. They loved their community, and they loved each other.
Then one day, something was not quite right about David. Cheryl called off work and took him to the hospital thinking that he was having a heart attack or stroke. And then the unthinkable happened – they discovered a brain tumor.
The series of events that transpired after David’s cancer diagnosis was nothing short of catastrophic.
Cheryl was forced to take two months of family and medical to take her husband down the mountain to hospitals in Boulder and even further afield for treatment. Then, her employer fired her for “abandoning her job”, but Cheryl did not have the funds, time, or energy to pursue legal restitution.
To make matters worse, Cheryl and David’s landlord informed them that he would be putting their rental home on the market – all while David was bedbound and unable to move himself. They were able to negotiate with the landlord and managed to live there another year, thanks in part to rental assistance provided by EFAA, but it was clear that they needed to find an alternative.
Cheryl spent her days at the hospital with David, on hold for hours with the US Office of Housing and Urban Development in hopes of securing a Section 8 voucher, surrounded by steno pads filled with phone numbers with names and agencies that could potentially help them. She called every agency in search of support but kept getting redirected and winding up at dead end after dead end. Additionally, she injured her back from transporting David in and out of bed. She was exhausted, she did not feel like herself, and she lost almost 75 pounds from the stress of the situation.
Eventually, Cheryl got in touch with EFAA’s Mountain Resource Liaison, Kelly. “I cried, because she was the first person who gave me even a seed of hope and a promise that things would be okay,” said Cheryl. “Without EFAA, I don’t think I would have survived. A huge weight was lifted off our shoulders. I didn’t have to freak out any more about how to move with my sick husband. You guys kept us safe and helped with everything.”
Through Kelly, Cheryl was connected to EFAA’s Housing Stabilization Program (HSP), which provided rental assistance to help Cheryl and David stay in their home, while also providing support to apply for Section 8 (a federal housing voucher program for economically disadvantaged families and seniors). After months of waiting, Cheryl and David finally received the welcome news that they were awarded a voucher. The downside that no housing was available in Nederland, meaning they would have to leave their community to re-establish themselves in Boulder.
A week after the news about their new housing, David’s health started to seriously decline. After a short time in hospice, David passed away after months of battling brain cancer.
In addition to processing the tragic reality of her husband’s passing, Cheryl’s Section 8 voucher was revoked on the basis that there was no longer someone in the household with a disability. Cheryl worked with EFAA and the Area Agency on Aging to re-secure the voucher, with her back injury qualifying as a disability.
Finally, Cheryl was re-approved for her Section 8 voucher, and an eligible apartment opened up in Nederland, meaning that she would not have to leave her community of 30+ years. This is extraordinary news given the Section 8 program’s competitive nature and the short supply of housing in Nederland.
“I am home in Nederland. This has been my home forever, and David is everywhere in this town. I am so grateful that I did not have to leave, that I can continue to walk my dog every day and run into people in my community who love me. I spent years taking care of others, and now it is my turn to let others take care of me.”
The tragedy that Cheryl endured was enough to make anyone lose hope, but she maintained a heroic optimism through it all.
In times of crisis, the last thing anyone should have to worry about is a roof over their heads. As the community’s safety net, EFAA is here to provide our neighbors with help to meet their basic needs – as well as a compassionate shoulder to lean on – when the going gets tough.