International workers share their Park City adventure
Brazilian fashion design major Ana Mollica calls her summer break in Park City thus far a "how to survive experience."
But Mollica, and her 17 mostly seasonal working roommates lucked out. David Decker, owner of a 5,600 square-foot Thaynes Canyon mansion decided to offer up his home for a four-month lease after hearing about the seasonal housing shortage earlier this month. This spring, he says he’s planning to significantly remodel his house and in the meantime didn’t mind offering it to seasonal workers.
The roommates came together at Bad Ass Coffee’s Dec. 7 Roommate Roundup, organized by the coffee shop’s owner and Mountainlands Community Housing Trust. The roommates spent Christmas in the kitchen, a room with a panoramic view of Park City and Park City Mountain Resort and the most popular room in the house. Secret Santas exchanged gifts, the Park City Christian Center gave them a turkey.
Nine roommates who dangle their legs off the countertops or lean against the fridge, explain the situation. Nearly everyone in the house holds two jobs one is usually at a resort, the other at a restaurant — because they say they need the money to save up for an end-of-summer trip to California or maybe Hawaii. Most need to walk 15 minutes to the nearest bus stop each morning. But in the end, it appears to be worth it. Park City people are friendly and helpful, and the trip will look good on their resumes for post-college internships.
They’re between the ages of 20 and 26 and arrived with J-1 visas because they say they heard about the good snow and skiing, and the nightlife. Some came to town with a job, some didn’t, and of course, that was the least of their worries, since the real surprise was that there were no rooms to rent.
Mollica laughs when she remembers her first week staying at the Yarrow at the start of her South American summer journey north. The Yarrow’s front desk clerk was Brazillian, the entire lobby was full of Brazilians, and when she crossed the street to go to the bus stop, Brazilians, she recalls.
The Best Western at Kimball Junction is still full of Brazilians here for Park City’s winter season, she reports. She suggests they might as well call it "Best Western: Brazil.
There are 13 Brazilians living at the Thaynes Canyon house, but all are from different states. Some met over the Internet, while others met at Rio de Janeiro’s airport or at The Yarrow.
The house isn’t a mess yet — not if Mollica can help it. She’s posted a sign on the front door from the garage that’s used as the main entrance to inform people to "Quitate Los Zapatos," Portuguese for "take off your shoes."
Soon she plans to implement a dish washing schedule.
The price to rent a room in the house is $500, according to American roommate David Maloney. To save money, therefore, some sleep more than four to a room on mattresses they purchased at bargain prices from the Christian Center.
"We heard about the Christian Center everyone said look for a job in Brazil and when you get there, go to the Christian Center for free priest, free food, free everything," confirms Brazilian roommate and administration major Joao Silva Neto, referring to the Christian Center’s free weekly dinners offered to foreign travelers throughout the winter.
Neto has been pleasantly surprised by the friendliness of Park City residents. He admits he had a "snobby" impression of Americans when he came, but that has since changed.
"Americans here are different from what I thought. A guy at a bus station the other day stopped to give me a ride," he says. "People here are very helpful."
Park City Municipal Corporation is currently looking to create a program that will add more housing for workers, says Phyllis Robinson, the city’s affordable housing director. Though Deer Valley Resort provides 170 beds for its 300 seasonal employees and The Canyons has plans to build affordable housing units, according to Robinson, the town needs to have more room and board for the many seasonal employees that provide the manpower needed to run the city’s most valuable industry. Robinson is currently working on an affordable housing resolution for the city to possibly adopt in the near future which will reflect the current and projected future affordable housing needs within the community.
In the meantime, it appears, seasonal workers will have to rely on the kindness and generosity of Park City residents with an extra room, or eight-room mansion with a nice view, that will do for a few months.
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