Canvassers hear moving stories about substance abuse, affordable housing, and child care as they go door to door engaging in Deep Listening.
By Western Colorado Alliance community organizers Bianca Diaz, Hanna Arauza, and María Luiza Peréz Chavéz.
On June 1, 2022, Western Colorado Alliance’s organizing team held our first public Deep Listening training not knowing what the summer had in store. We were excited to take a step into the unknown. Our team taught interested Alliance members the art of hearing different viewpoints while asking questions to truly understand communities who typically aren’t heard. No one has engaged in this type of work on the Western Slope before, and few organizations across the nation have truly deeply listened in their communities. Four months later, our team knocked over 1,000 doors across Mesa, Montrose, and Garfield Counties, engaging over 200 people in conversation. We have been blown away by the positive responses from people who are willing to share their stories with us.
Montrose and Olathe
Over the summer, in the cities of Montrose and Olathe, we heard repeated concerns about issues like addiction and substance abuse, affordable housing, neighborhood safety, lack of activities, and diminished community connection.
Montrose County has undergone a huge growth spurt the last ten years, and the county is definitely feeling the growing pains. One-on-one conversations are already underway with residents who are interested in our neighborhood meetings. We are ready to work with these passionate community members who want to see a Montrose that works for everybody.
In Mesa County, we have talked to people in cities from Orchard Mesa to Palisade. Some of the issues that concern our community are affordable housing, low wages, mental health, and community safety.
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The stories we have heard are inspiring — and heartbreaking. For instance, we heard this from a man identifying as part of the LGBTQA+ community: “[You wouldn’t know] by looking at me because I am a white male, who looks fairly ‘normal,’ but I fear that we have no safety within our community.” He told us about his friend from China who was insulted and threatened at gunpoint, and expressed that the safety of our community is in danger, and that gun violence needs to be prioritized. He stated, “I want to get involved but don’t know where to do that.” And we exclaimed, “That’s us! You can get involved and volunteer with us to do more!” He was grateful we came to his door, appreciating that we spoke to him. His willingness to share and get involved is what truly inspires this work.
“He was grateful we came to his door, appreciating that we spoke to him. His willingness to share and get involved is what truly inspires this work.”
Residents of Rifle have opened up about their financial struggles and the challenges presented by a rapidly increasing cost of living, shortage of affordable housing, and being forced to commute for jobs that pay a living wage. Additionally, the community is concerned about limited resources for youth, including childcare, K-12 education, and programs outside of school to ensure youth are engaged and supported.
Community members express a strong desire to come together and address these issues, but worry that their long hours working, commuting, and parenting will present an insurmountable hurdle to organizing. However, our Alliance is committed to accommodating the needs of our neighbors so we can work together for a better future.
Deep listening has humbled us and we are grateful for those who have shared their personal stories with us. The deeper understanding of the issues that impact our communities locally and the relationships we’ve built through this process are invaluable to our mission of building healthy, just, and self-reliant communities across the Western Slope. And this is only the beginning!
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