In last Friday’s Aspen Daily News, Curtis Wackerle wrote a piece titled “Can high-priced Aspen support a low-priced lodge?” Curtis’ story chronicled the endless debate about what direction Aspen should take when it comes to optimizing its lodging options in regards to its past, present and future.
As usual, the dialogue of the discussion seemed to deviate somewhere between those who want to embrace exclusivity, elitism, and all the accouterments the 1 percent reign down upon the town when they so givingly grace us with their presence, and those who want Aspen to be a more affordable and accepting destination that is accessible to the less entitled.
Unfortunately, as I read the story, I didn’t see anything about the lodging that Aspen needs. We like to think Aspen is a model community and a leader in living, and the rest of the world should strive to stand in our shadow. We like to see Silver City as a shining city on a hill and an example for others to emulate. With mind, body and spirit we want to believe it is a better place. But as much as we try, we all know that’s not quite true. In fact, it has now become quite clear that Aspen is no leader at all.
It used to be some sort of a secret. Not so many people knew. Well, at least it was seldom, if ever, spoken about. But over the last few years that has all changed. Finally, it has gotten the attention it deserves. It had to happen. After all, death is something that cannot be completely ignored.
After years of simmering under the surface like some dark family secret, discussion and dialogue about the local suicide rate have started to come to a boil. After years of thinking that Aspen is a great place to live, we are starting to realize that Aspen may be an even better place to die.
With her sky-high suicide rates, Aspen has a serious problem. Say what you want about how wonderful Aspen is, but as a city, a society and a community, Aspen is obviously failing. Too many friends, family and loved ones are falling victim to their own hand.
While some may be wondering what suicide has to do with lodging in Aspen, to me it is clear. As a resort community we’re so concerned with the welfare of our guests that we often overlook the welfare of ourselves and our own loved ones. Maybe it’s time we take a break and stop thinking about the tourists to take a little time to think about ourselves.
If you do, you’ll realize the lodging Aspen needs is not for tourists or any other far-flung guests. Nor does it have anything to do with how much one can pay for a night’s stay. That’s because the lodging that Aspen needs is a permanent, well-funded homeless shelter.
For too long Aspen’s homeless have been housed in seasonal, shifting locations. Sometimes here, sometimes there, never to settle down. It’s time that stopped. It’s all about support. And support starts at the bottom, with the most basic needs. There is no more basic need than shelter. Any safety net you create for a community is only as good as the farthest someone may fall. In Aspen it appears there is no end. You can keep falling and falling and falling. Aspen should shore up the base of the community by building a premiere, permanent homeless shelter. It will let everyone know that no matter how far you fall we got you.
It is absolutely unbelievable that Aspen has struggled for so long to address the issue. Aspen is one of, if not the most caring, giving, philanthropic communities in the world. There really is nothing like it. Aspen is full of great giving people and a plethora of nonprofits that help people around the planet. Whether it’s inner city youth, kids with cancer, disabled veterans, or anyone else, Aspen will take care of you. When someone gets sick or has an accident we have a benefit to help out. I know Aspen cares. So why doesn’t Aspen have a permanent, well-funded homeless shelter?
For some reason it seems that having a homeless shelter is some sort of sacred cow that Aspen is unwilling to slaughter. Well, I say it’s time to sacrifice that bovine beast around Aspen’s neck. It could be the first step in staving off suicide. Aspen is unhealthy. Its high rate of suicide shows it. While many factors and causes may be contributing to its maladies, there’s a solution to start healing and helping with the hurt.
If Aspen wants to be a leader it should start taking better care of its own. That’s what leaders do. Rather than worrying about the lodging it wants, maybe it’s time for Aspen to think about the lodging it needs.
Contact Jeremy at firstname.lastname@example.org