By Emily Erickson
Let me tell you about one of my best friends.
I met Jamie in the creepy way you make friends as an adult, through a mutual friend setting us up on a “gal pal” playdate. This date was going to take place by us crawling up Mickinnick switchbacks while swapping personal details about our lives through heaving breaths and sweaty forehead swipes. Because nothing speeds up friendship like collectively pushing the limits of your respective deodorants.
The morning of Jamie and my planned meeting, I pulled up to the trailhead, feeling my stomach squirm at the possibility of impending awkwardness. I repeated dialogues of, “don’t say anything too weird, too quickly,” and “get a read on her before you break out in random dancing and pun-inspired one liners.”
But, anyone who knows me personally knows I absolutely failed at both of these instructions, nearly immediately. “Hi! You’re Jamie. I know you are, because I creeped on your Instagram page!” Shit.
To my relief, however, she laughed, pulled me into a big hug, and replied, “I creeped on yours too!” And I’ve adored her ever since.
Jamie and her husband, Mark, moved from Black Mountain, N.C., to Sandpoint last November, with a U-Haul of all their worldly possessions and their sweet little cattle dog Gray riding proudly in the middle seat.
Jamie, Mark and Gray left Black Mountain with aspirations of pushing themselves out of their comfort zones, of establishing themselves in a town with a readily-accessible ski hill, and of prioritizing their passion for the outdoors by living in a place filled to the brim with recreational opportunities.
Before they left, Mark secured a job as the new general manager of the 219 Lounge, and Jamie worked on the logistics of moving her thriving yoga business north. They found a place to live on Craigslist and drove the 2,400 miles across the country, daydreaming of Lake Pend Oreille and Schweitzer powder days.
But, in true resettlement fashion, their road, although smooth on their way to Sandpoint, got a little bumpier when they crossed the North Idaho line. When Jamie and Mark pulled their U-Haul up to the residence they had planned on calling home, they found the house nearly unlivable. They had crossed the country to build their lives in Sandpoint, just to find themselves stranded upon their arrival.
Through a bit of luck and a lot of generosity, and after spending a nearly a month in limbo at the K2 hotel, Jamie and Mark found the perfect little home in Sandpoint, with lots of natural light and a fenced in yard Gray could patrol for meandering beetles and low-flying birds.
But why am I telling you about Jamie and Mark?
I’m telling you about Jamie and Mark because they are a young, married couple, with steady incomes. They are honest, hard working and active in the community, loving Sandpoint for its friendly residents, for its natural beauty, and for the passion and inspiration lurking on every street corner and at every mountain top. And more than that, they are two of the kindest, most fun-loving people I know.
They’re the type of people that the future of our small town depends upon. And they’re being pushed out.
After a year renting their perfect little home, their house fell under new ownership and will be used as a space for women and children as a part of the Freedom House program. Which is a beautiful thing.
The not-so-beautiful thing is that Jamie and Mark, with their upwards of $900/month budget for renting, are unable to find a home that fits their needs.
Doing a quick search on Craigslist, the average rental cost of the five two-bedroom, pet-friendly homes available in the city of Sandpoint is $1,588 per month.
Call me a jaded Millennial, but asking young people, who are necessary for supporting the systems in a healthy functioning city, who have the potential to start families, business, and to contribute to the community in positive ways, to pay such a substantial portion of their incomes (portions nearing HUD-classified “cost-burdened” rental standards) simply to live, is how our amazing little mountain town turns into a vacation home and retirement community, or heaven forbid, an Aspen.
And Jamie and Mark are not alone in their search. Young people with steady incomes, with multiple jobs, with conscious minds and with passionate hearts, are being pushed out of Sandpoint, not for a lack of effort or ingenuity, but because they’re simply running out of options.
With all the eloquence I can muster, I say that really sucks. Something has got to give.
If anybody knows of a property that Jamie, Mark and Gray could turn into a long-term home, please email Jamie at [email protected]
In the meantime, “Stay classy, Sandpoint.” (Just not so classy that we all have to leave).
Emily Erickson is a freelance writer and bartender originally from Wisconsin, with a degree in sociology and an affinity for playing in the mountains.
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