Why Does Affordable Housing Matter?
Ayesha is a single mom of three kids. Her middle child, K., is eight years old and severely autistic. K. is non-verbal and has a host of health issues that have required increasingly intensive care as he has grown. K. now needs his own room to manage his health challenges while maintaining a safe environment for the family. To care for her son, Ayesha had to resign her position as a corrections officer and applied for housing assistance.
Ayesha was extremely fortunate to get a government housing voucher, which covers a significant portion of her rent, but was only able to find a unit that was inadequately small for her family in a neighborhood she felt was unsafe. With no other option, she rented it even though K. did not have his own room and the rest of the family, including a toddler, was sequestered in one room for four hours a day so that K. could do therapy in another. With tears in her eyes, Ayesha recalls, “It was so stressful. It makes it hard to be a good mom. I kept looking for housing that would work for (my children), housing where K. could get the services he needs. It was awful.”
Fortunately, Ayesha worked with a mobility counselor, who went above and beyond to find Ayesha safe, suitable housing in a neighborhood of her choice. It took months, but eventually they finally found a home. The last time we visited Ayesha, she gave us a tour of her new house which had enough room for the baby, a room for K., and space for his therapy and equipment. K. could also enjoy access to special services and well-funded schools in the new neighborhood. Ayesha was smiling from ear to ear because her children were, at last, in a place they could call home.
The reality is that 50% of vouchers holders in the state of Connecticut are unable to use their vouchers, largely because of the lack of affordable housing. Another barrier for families is being discriminated against because they have a housing voucher. We need to expand services like mobility counseling to help families who struggle to find affordable housing in communities of their choice or have difficulties using their housing voucher due to discrimination. Open Communities Alliance is working for families looking for more affordable housing and for the rights of voucher holders like Ayesha who seek stability and better opportunities for her children.