1:30 p.m.: Self-Storage Locker, Grand Junction

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Andrew Kenney, CPR News – cpr.org

The self-storage yard was empty when Dawna Numbers arrived. 

The rain had paused, so the 48-year-old moved quickly to load her clothes in plastic bags into the back of her red Kia for the long journey on a mostly empty interstate.

With no money for rent, Numbers was headed for her mother’s house on the Front Range.

Numbers has been out of work since March 25, when the coronavirus outbreak eliminated her night shift job at a fishing-line factory in Grand Junction. Like many Americans, she had tried fruitlessly to file for unemployment benefits. The state unemployment office had been slammed with more than 231,,000 new claims in the last month, slowing services to a crawl.

Numbers had taken the night job so she could attend physical therapy appointments during the day. She’s worked in the past as a utility locator, a caregiver, and a Lyft driver. She had few options in Grand Junction. Many employers are shut down because of the virus.

“I’ve never just felt so alone,” she said. Maybe this crisis would bring out something better in people, she hoped. Maybe she’d have better luck in Denver.

“We just need to do the best we can and hopefully this ends soon and somehow we can go back to some kind of normal life,” she said. “Or hopefully better than it was before.”