Resident Narratives

Done by: Dawn DeAno [Photographer & Community Engager]

Bettie, resident of Elryia-Swansea for 68 years


When they built the I-70 highway it changed the whole atmosphere. A lot of people left. People protested in the 60s against the highway going in the first place. But we got nowhere. And that is what we are doing again. We should have somebody fight for us. Our council members are not fighting for us. It really upsets me that our city is not standing up for our neighborhoods.

Brenda, resident of Elyria-Swansea for over 38 years


My husband and I bought this home in 1981. We never wanted to move anywhere else. My mother in law lived 3 blocks away and my mother lived 6 blocks away. So, we were all connected. He always liked this house. Even as a child he knew he wanted to live in this house. When we were married and I was pregnant with my 4th child, my husband decided we needed a bigger home. This house was for sale and we bought it.

My husband loved being in the yard. Tending to it. He was always planting. He loved beautiful things, especially flowers. Every summer he would remove the old sod and replace it with new. He would dig and dig in the dirt. By the end of each season the grass was dead. It never returned the next spring. Nothing stays alive here.

I wonder if all of his digging in our yard and his work with the EPA testing soil samples in the area contributed to his cancer and death.

David, resident of Elyria-Swansea for over 50 years


I've lived in this area, on and off, since I was eight. My parents owned two homes--this one in Elyria, that I now live in, and one in Swansea, where my mother still lives. My mom will be 99 in June. I try to visit her daily so I can check up on her. Lots of changes have happened in the neighborhood. Many have not been welcomed. But, this is where I live and where I can afford to live. If I had to leave, I don't know how I'd make it.


Meet Anthony.

He works for CDOT during the week and is a pastor on the weekend in his old neighborhood, Elyria-Swansea. 

"The neighborhood has always been marginalized. We were all in the same boat—we got free lunches at school, even in the summers. We were all working class and the neighborhood is still that way. Our family had gone through some hard times. My Dad used to frequent the bars in the neighborhood. He would take my brother and I. We were only 6 and 7 at the time. We would hang out while he drank. We have vivid memories of walking our Dad home from the bars because he could not stand straight. We would walk down the I-70 viaduct, which was dark and scary. We lost our house because the money he earned went to the bars instead of our house payment. All 7 of us lived in a 2-bedroom apartment for a while. It was the kindness of one man, a friend of my Dad’s, who helped us get our house back. My Dad stopped drinking and began to go to church with the rest of us--that was a turning point for our family."


Meet Jerome. He and Anthony are brothers and they grew up in Elyria-Swansea.

"My mom has always been a church going person. When we were young she would drive us to church in SE Denver, which also had a school that I attended from 4th grade until I graduated. She would drive the church bus from SE Denver back to Elyria-Swansea and East Denver to pick up kids and take them to the Sunday school. Then when my brother and I got older, we started to do pastor work and drive the church vans to pick kids up. We wanted to promote what helped our family. After some time, it started to not make sense. If we wanted to minister to people like us we should be where people like us are living. That is what drew us back to our old neighborhood where our mom still lives—Elyria-Swansea. We see a thirst in a lot of marginalized communities not just Swansea. We know what the children in the community are going through. We’ve walked the same streets and path of having hard working parents on welfare and struggling to make ends meet."