Joe Deaguero: The Many Faces of Jeffco’s Affordable Housing Crisis

The scarcity of affordable housing in Jefferson County affects a wide range of people in a variety of situations. Who are they? People who work service jobs, college students, retirees, people with disabilities, people who have left homelessness behind, and people who work in certain professions, like teaching, or are at earlier points in their careers. This blog series gives insight into how a range of individuals are experiencing Jeffco’s affordable housing crisis. 

“It’s hard to put into words what it’s like to live here. It’s nice to come home to a place and know it’s yours."

Joe Deaguero’s life came apart when he and his wife separated. He says he turned to alcohol, and found himself without a roof over his head.

“I was homeless for three years,” he said. “Me and my wife, we separated. I just turned to alcohol. It just took its toll. I was out there on the streets for three years.”

He worked out his alcohol issues and has quit drinking. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs helped him sort through housing options that he could afford on his pay from a construction job, he said. 

When he found an income-restricted apartment at AVi at Olde Town in Arvada, he couldn’t believe his luck. Deaguero had seen some pretty sketchy places, and this apartment was head and shoulders above others. 

“It’s hard to put into words what it’s like to live here,” he said. 

He likes that it’s quiet and there is a certain camaraderie among residents, which includes previously homeless veterans and aged-out foster youth, as well as others whose income is below 70 percent of the area median income. For one person, that number is $60,830, according to a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development table published by Foothills Regional Housing.

In Jeffco, the number of unhoused people is growing rapidly. The county’s population of unhoused people increased 73 percent from 2022 to 2023, reaching 854 people, according to numbers included in the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative’s 2023 Point in Time survey and its 2022 survey. The increase is one of the higher rates among counties in the Denver metro area.

The reasons for homelessness are individual and often intertwined. However, the lack of affordable housing looms large among the combination of factors that lead to homelessness. 

In their 2022 bookHomelessness is a Housing Problem: How Structural Factors Explain U.S. Patterns” authors Gregg Colburn and Clayton Page Aldern examined rates of mental illness, drug use, poverty, weather, generosity of public assistance, and low-income mobility and found that none of those factors explained why homelessness looks so different across the U.S. They convincingly make the case that housing affordability is a major reason why people are unhoused.

An analysis by the Pew Charitable Trusts came to a similar conclusion, finding that homelessness rises when rents increase. “Some vulnerabilities strongly influence which people are susceptible to homelessness, but research has repeatedly concluded that these factors play only a minor role in driving rates of homelessness compared with the role of housing costs,” according to the analysis.

Deaguero says that finding a nice place that he could afford has been a stabilizing factor in his life. A concrete finisher by trade, he is grateful to have his own set of keys and not have to share a place with anyone besides his dog. He feels settled and is looking at moving up into a maintenance position.

“It’s nice to come home to a place and know it’s yours,” he said.