DOUGLAS — As the boom roars on, the increasing crunch caused by a lack of housing options is nothing new - but now even students wanting to attend Eastern Wyoming College are feeling it. From talks of man camps to full hotels serving as a band aid for energy workers without any other housing option, the issue is impacting growth.
A recent housing study conducted states Douglas needs 600 new living spaces by 2025, but potential new residents are finding that there is a definite need right now for safe, affordable housing. Recently, EWC/Douglas officials told the college board in Torrington that housing options – including the possibility of building dorms at the campus – are being considered.
According to Douglas Vice President Margaret Farley, EWC has been working closely with several real estate companies and has formed an advisory committee to look into a temporary solution for affordable housing, as building a dorm for the campus will be multiple years out.
“We are trying to secure local housing with local realtors, but with the industry (boom) going on it has been difficult,” Farley said.
When EWC announced its new gunsmithing program, prospective students from both around the state and beyond state lines took interest in the unique opportunity to enroll in the program.
“Unfortunately, the cost of living and housing in Douglas is not good for student recruitment,” EWC President Lesley Travers said. “We lost several students this year due to student inability to find suitable, affordable housing.”
EWC’s campus doesn’t have dormitories, meaning students venturing to the campus had to fend for themselves. The gunsmithing course, which can only take 15 students at a time, had four students turn the program down solely because they simply couldn’t find housing to make the move.
Student Garrett Pearson couldn’t find housing either, so he got creative. He took matters into his own hands and purchased a mobile home in Riverton and moved it here.
“I really hope to see something done,” Pearson said last week at the gunsmithing program open house. Fellow gunsmithing student Dorry Cooper of Scottsbluff, Nebraska, moved in with Pearson, as he couldn’t find housing either.
“It was a little rough,” Cooper said of the housing situation. “The closest I found was in Casper.”
According to The Enterprise Director Cindy Porter, the need for 600 housing units doesn’t include figures for temporary housing. She says there have been talks about bringing in temporary modular housing units.
“Douglas has a need right now for housing,” she said, noting EWC, hospital and teaching jobs are all bringing in new residents. “I know we have an immediate need in Douglas today.”