Former residents of Louisiana try GJ as new home

Couple leaves Gulf storms behind

Edna Freeman shows her husband Eldon’s square dancing badges that the couple brought with them from Houma, La., when they moved to Grand Junction in the wake of Hurricane Gustav. The pair are now finding that housing is hard to come by in the valley, and have been living at the Ipswich Inn on North Avenue.

Sometime between Tropical Storm Fay and Hurricane Gustav, a self-described Cajun couple decided to make their getaway to western Colorado and make good on their dreams of living out the rest of their golden years closer to their two granddaughters.

Constant storms in the South, too, were more than they could bear.

“When you’re young, you can take it,” said Eldon Freeman, sitting alongside his wife, Edna. “When you’re old like we are, you don’t have the (ability to deal with) adversity like you used to.”

Now, after a week of being holed up at a local Grand Junction motel, the couple is realizing the difficulties of finding local affordable housing.

The Freemans — who describe themselves as never having had a lot of money but always having a lot of fun — lament they are frittering away what little money they have on a $50-a-day motel room. However, they admit,
if they had stayed in their storm-battered hometown of Houma, La., they’d probably have to pay about as much to keep a generator running, as electricity is still hard to come by in the low-lying area about a half-hour drive from the Gulf Coast.

“We’ve been trying to leave since June, but the weather’s been so bad,” said Eldon, 68, who has been disabled for the past dozen years. “We just got to a point where we couldn’t stay there waiting to die. You just can’t sit there and do nothing.”

So the Freemans, who had lived a decade previously in Denver, headed west. One of their two sons and his wife, along with their two pre-teen daughters, 8 and 12, live in Carbondale.

In Grand Junction, the couple has become quite attached to folks in the vibrant local square-dancing community, an activity they can’t live without.

Indeed, among the items in the Freemans’ motel room are Edna’s square-dancing petticoats and Eldon’s matching sunny yellow and red chili pepper shirt and bolo tie.

There are aspects of Cajun living the couple will miss, though. Before packing up and leaving they made some Cajun-style meals, but those are long gone now.

“(Eldon’s) dying for rice right now,” smiled Edna, 66.

But the cost of living, especially the increasing prices of prescription medications, was more than they could handle. They estimated spending an extra $1,000 more a month living in the south. And, housing shortages are far more dire there than in Grand Junction, they said.

Eldon said he had held down numerous odd jobs in his life to make ends meet, from installing computers to delivering pizza. He also worked on an oil rig until being laid off in 1982.

“We lost everything we had,” Eldon Freeman said.

The Freemans are waiting for confirmation of local government-subsidized housing. Their references are former landlords back in Louisiana, who can’t be reached because the storms silenced phone lines there.

The Freemans were offered a three-bedroom apartment, but didn’t take the offer because they didn’t want to take the opportunity away from a family who would need the extra space.


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