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Carbondale mayor talks about 80+ Venezuelan migrants in Colorado mountain town searching for work, housing

Carbondale mayor talks about arriving migrants and resources available as winter sets in
Carbondale mayor talks about arriving migrants and resources available as winter sets in 03:12

Carbondale Mayor Ben Bohmfalk said the influx of 84 migrants from Venezuela has been a crash course in what kind of help is available to people in that kind of situation, and what is not. The Colorado mountain town has become the latest destination for those looking for a better life. 

Some of the 84 migrants from Venezuela who have arrived in Carbondale are sleeping in vehicles.  CBS

"I think what we're trying to do is not just sort of point fingers or say, you know, 'not here, go somewhere else,'" Bohmfalk said.  "Because I think that that's kind of the reception that these folks are getting in most places that they're going."

While he doesn't believe they chose Carbondale for any other reason aside from finding a wide parking lot where they were mostly unbothered near the boat ramp on the edge of town, Bohmfalk said while they cannot become the new target for every single migrant, they're going to work to help these ones integrate. Navigating a housing crisis has been challenging enough for a community without things larger communities have like a homeless shelter, but Carbondale is doing what it can to make sure the migrants are not freezing in their cars overnight, which was their current situation until the 3rd Street Center opened the gymnasium to them at night. 

"We have a long history of absorbing immigrants into our communities and they're a critical part of our workforce," Bohmfalk said. "Even with the housing shortage, people, you know, double up in rooms and trailers and mobile homes and like, there are ways that people get absorbed into the community."

Because Carbondale straddles two counties, Garfield County and Pitkin County, Bohmfalk is hopeful they will be able to work together with local governments so his city will not be the only one trying to help this large group. Still, he continues to be surprised at the lack of support a small city like Carbondale gets when a population like this moves in. 

Dozens of migrants from Venezuela have arrived in the Town of Carbondale looking for work and housing.  CBS

"When we talk to our supporters in the Department of Local Affairs and said, you know, 'Is there state support for this or federal support, is there some agency that kind of comes in when this happens in a community?' They basically said 'No.'"

"We're feeling kind of on our own with this," Bohmfalk said. 

It's a challenge he said their town will not shy away from, people need their help. They are just feeling unprepared. 

"We're trying to be human beings," Bohmfalk said. "At the same time, we have to maintain some guardrails and some limits on what we commit to because we just cannot be the destination for more people."

"We can barely kind of manage the challenges that we have every day here right now, we can't take on a lot more of this."

Your Reporter: Behind the Story with Spencer Wilson 08:49

There is some support coming from outside Carbondale right now. The non-profit Voces Unidas de las Montañas headquartered in neighboring Glenwood Springs has taken on the task of helping to provide food and clothing as well as trying to help coordinate the next steps in the meantime. CBS Colorado is scheduled to touch base with them Friday to learn more about their efforts, and the current status of the group. 

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