I was born on October 1st, 1975 in the big City of New York. By age three my mother moved my siblings and I to New Haven, Connecticut. I can still remember our first apartment on top of a blighted building on a corner of a busy street. On the ground floor there was the usual amenities found in any urban neighborhood, including a crappy bodega and a Chinese restaurant. The apartment itself was nothing to speak of; it was small, dingy, the walls needed to be painted, the vinyl-tiled floors were cracked and some tiles were missing all together. Not to mention, the appliances only half worked. For example, the refrigerator worked but the freezer did not and the stove worked but the oven refused to turn on. I believe there were only two bedrooms, one for my mom and the other for us kids. Seven people in one apartment made it extremely cramped, but cozy.
Things seemed to look up when my mom got the opportunity to move into a five-bedroom apartment and the rent would be based on my mom’s income (subsidized). We were overwhelmed with joy and felt like we were on top of the world. There was finally enough space for the whole family to live comfortably. The only issue was that it was in the projects in one of the worst neighborhoods in New Haven. We didn’t care, we moved.
Growing up in the hood is rough. We experienced poverty, hunger, fear, and above all else, the need to survive. Making matters worse, my mom raised us on her own as our father never moved with us to Connecticut. So it’s no surprise that at 15 years old I got pregnant and dropped out of high school. The next three years of my life are a blur but I knew I needed to get out of the hood and provide a life for my daughter. So I went back to school and received my G.E.D. and also received an administrative certificate from a business school.
Little time had passed before I secured my first job as a receptionist at a national nonprofit organization called The Community Builders. The company owned affordable housing in the same neighborhood that I grew up and lived in. At Community Builders, I gained formal training and learned community and housing development from the inside out. By the time I left, I was a project manager responsible for all aspects of three development projects. In 2005 I left and have been with Building Neighborhoods Together (BNT) since.
I am passionate about BNT’s mission to provide high quality affordable housing to people that need it most. I believe that quality affordable housing and communities of choice is a human right and should not be determine based on race, class or economic status. You see, it’s personal to me, as I am a product of publicly subsidized housing. My mom was a single mom who raised 6 children alone in the projects. The affordable apartment we lived in offered my mother the opportunity to avoid the tough decision of putting food on the table, putting clothes on our back, or keeping the lights on. Instead, she focused her energy on keeping our family intact. We would come home from school to our mom present and engaged, a clean environment, and cooked meals. This was the recipe for our loving, stable family. I know affordable housing was the foundation that provided my family with a quality life and because of my personal experience and firsthand knowledge, I am driven to ensure that others have the same opportunity.