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Cora Cardenas (Kevin Malella)

The Steel City’s Silver Housing Crisis

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Cora Cardenas was 63 years old when she got into a legal dispute with her landlord. Cardenas says the landlord decided Cardenas’ one-bedroom apartment was better suited for the landlord’s granddaughter. “I was homeless and I had nowhere to go,” says Cardenas, now 87.

Her saving grace came in the form of the Senior Resource Development Agency (SRDA), which at the time built, in conjunction with the city of Pueblo and the Pueblo Housing Authority, the Richmond and Union Plaza senior citizen apartment complexes consisted of 97 units adjacent to the Joseph H. Edwards Active Adult Center. It was also an SRDA project in the heart of the historic Union Avenue district.

Cardenas lives in the Union Plaza complex. “I was one of the first ones in the building when it opened in 1994,” she says.

She got into her predicament partly as a result of what happened more than three decades earlier. 1973 must have been a terrible year for her. First Cardenas’ husband, Dominic, died of a stroke at the all too young age of 49. Then on Dec. 11 of that year, one of her four children–her son, Sammy, a Navy fireman at the time–was killed in a fire aboard ship while serving in the Vietnam War.

A life lived

Before that fateful year, Cardenas remembers fondly that she was living in Pueblo with her family in a “beautiful dream house” on Lancaster Drive with “big bedrooms.” But after her husband died she could no longer take care of the place and moved into an apartment.

Cora Cardenas was 63 years old when she got into a legal dispute with her landlord. Cardenas says the landlord decided Cardenas’ one-bedroom apartment was better suited for the landlord’s granddaughter. “I was homeless and I had nowhere to go,” says Cardenas, now 87.
Her saving grace came in the form of the Senior Resource Development Agency (SRDA), which at the time built, in conjunction with the city of Pueblo and the Pueblo Housing Authority, the Richmond and Union Plaza senior citizen apartment complexes consisted of 97 units adjacent to the Joseph H. Edwards Active Adult Center. It was also an SRDA project in the heart of the historic Union Avenue district.
Cardenas lives in the Union Plaza complex. “I was one of the first ones in the building when it opened in 1994,” she says.
She got into her predicament partly as a result of what happened more than three decades earlier. 1973 must have been a terrible year for her. First Cardenas’ husband, Dominic, died of a stroke at the all too young age of 49. Then on Dec. 11 of that year, one of her four children–her son, Sammy, a Navy fireman at the time–was killed in a fire aboard ship while serving in the Vietnam War.

A life lived

Before that fateful year, Cardenas remembers fondly that she was living in Pueblo with her family in a “beautiful dream house” on Lancaster Drive with “big bedrooms.” But after her husband died she could no longer take care of the place and moved into an apartment.
In her prime, Cardenas taught bilingual classes and summer school at District 60. She graduated from what is now Pueblo Community College and from what is now the Colorado State University-Pueblo. She also worked at the university back in the day as a keypunch operator.
Cardenas has adjusted to life well at Union Plaza. “It’s very private, very quiet and very family-oriented,” she says.  She also likes that the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk is nearby. Her only complaint is: “There are no little grocery stores or a little Walmart around here. All we have are restaurants and clothing stores.” She says her daughter, Deborah, who lives in Pueblo, takes her grocery shopping at least once a month so Cardenas could buy prepared frozen food to reheat in her microwave.
“I used to cook, but not anymore,” she says. Cardenas says she also used to drive herself around when she was younger, but her family – she has another daughter, Mary, living in Denver, who she hopes will move to Pueblo soon, and a son, Daniel, who lives in California who calls her regularly–recommended that she shouldn’t, even though Cardenas says, “I think I can still drive.”
Now Cardenas prefers to eat at home in her roughly 500-square-foot apartment – about the size of all the apartments in Union Plaza and Richmond – even though she admits she could save herself the trouble of firing up the microwave by going to the dining hall and paying “$2 for a full-course meal,” she says marveling at the bargain. Yet she still likes eating in her apartment. “I do my own dishes and clean my own house.”
Nowadays Cardenas also keeps busy reading, watching rented videos with her daughter, and crafting. She says she makes decorations to adorn the Union Plaza dining hall for special occasions.
These days Cardenas doesn’t have many acquaintances at the Plaza. She says most of the friends she made there over the years have either passed on or are in assisted-living facilities. She adds that now she seldom goes to the Joseph H. Edwards Active Adult Center, which she says has a pool table and other amenities for seniors seeking comradery, because she no longer know…
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