Faces of the Boom: After return to hometown, 76-year-old struggles to stay
WILLISTON — Phyllis Larson, 76, decided to retire for good two years ago.
“I was just devastated,” said Larson, who spent her career as a health professional.
Larson, who returned from Spokane, Wash., to her hometown of Williston about 10 years ago to be closer to family, said rising rent prices in the oil boomtown have been a struggle for her.
“When I came back here, I got hit in the face,” Larson said.
Days after she left her job at Williston’s Bethel Lutheran Home, Larson said she went back to her “understanding boss” and asked for some part-time work.
Larson continues to work two days a week to afford her two-bedroom apartment, where rent has increased from $550 about 10 years ago to just under $1,300 today.
After Larson pays her rent, utilities, cable and phone bills, she says she has about $200 each month remaining from her retirement income, Social Security and part-time job. She’s tried to apply for low-income senior housing but was told she doesn’t qualify.
Recently, Larson’s son has been living with her and helping out with expenses. But he’s moving to a new place Jan. 1 and Larson worries about making ends meet.
“When he moves out, that’s when I’m going to feel it,” Larson said.
She used to have a one-year lease, but recently the company has gone to month-to-month arrangements with tenants, making Larson nervous it could go up again.
One of Larson’s neighbors moved in with family in Grand Forks, and her good friend recently moved to Bismarck.
“We’ve got to do something because it’s driving people out of here,” Larson said.
But although the oil boom has changed her hometown dramatically, Larson said her only gripe is the rent and she doesn’t want to leave.
“I was born and raised here, and it’s my home,” Larson said.
Dalrymple is a Forum News Service reporter stationed in the Oil Patch. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org