DENVER – Chris Cline walks down a long corridor and stops at a roll-up metal door. He takes the lock off and pushes up on the door to reveal a windowless metal box he calls “home sweet hell.”
The disabled Gulf War vet and his dog have been living in the tiny 70 square-feet storage unit for almost two years. The small space is crammed with all his worldly possessions, including reminders of his proud Navy career strewn across the walls.
Cline has a full-time job, a car and has served our country in war, but in an increasingly expensive city like Denver, this is the best Cline says he can do to find solace.
"It isn't an easy life by any means. It's not something I would choose," he said.
The facility is climate-controlled, but keeping warm in the winter is a challenge. Temperature can vary, but in the coldest part of winter Cline estimates it's not warmer than roughly 50 degrees inside.
"It gets cold. I mean, don't get me wrong. It does get cold, but it's better than being out there," explained Cline.
Life wasn't always this way for Cline and his dog, Anwen. The rental market has simply squeezed them out over the last few years. He used to lease space in someone's basement in Lakewood, then a room from a man in Parker.
But then came bankruptcy, and now Cline says he just cannot comfortably spend what little he has on an actual apartment. Cline is paying $160 a month for his storage unit.
"It's not much, but it's something," he said.
Cline makes $11.50 an hour as an overnight security guard, a job he's had for years, and where he can keep his dog close by. After deducting monthly expenses, he’s left with about $600 for anything else life could throw his way, including trying to save.
That's why he says the storage unit just makes sense, but he fears it may not last.
"There have been people who walk through here who later talk to the manager, and I hear, 'were you sleeping in your space?' You know, that kind of thing. So, they're trying to get you in trouble," said Cline.
Cline sometimes sleeps in his car in a park when it's warmer outside. Without the car, he says he could hardly get to work. Without the work, he just could not support himself.
“I don't want a handout," he said.
The Navy veteran says he'd gladly take some help with housing, but the VA and another organization, he says, just haven't come through yet.
He says his family is not much of an option either; they live out of state. So, for now, this is the reality.
"This is not a choice for me. This is survival," he said.
Cline says there are at least two other people paying for and living in storage units at that particular storage facility. Denver7 Investigates decided to withhold the name of that place for their protection.
Editor's Note: Cline's story is the beginning of a series of stories addressing Colorado's increasingly expensive housing. On Monday, the Denver7 Investigates team will reveal a new measure in the works to reduce rent prices and provide more people assistance in purchasing a home -- even if they earn more than the median income.