A Place to Bloom
November 25, 2020
A Stressful Search
Years ago, a new family moved into a home in the Riverview neighborhood. Their mother, a CNA and home health aide, had had trouble finding quality housing for her family.
“I had a [Housing Choice] Voucher,” she says. “I was living in a bedroom with me and my three kids, and I couldn’t find a place.”
Cassie and her family had moved into the cramped living situation after vacating their previous home. That house had been plagued with problems, and the neighborhoods surrounding it were unsafe.
“I lived in northeast [Kansas City]. I loved the area; it was pretty. I lived right next to the museum in an old 100-year-old house. But it had black mold; We froze in the winter, we melted in the summer. I lived there for three and a half years. The cockroaches were horrible.”
Cassie was looking for a safer place to stay for her children. But because finding landlords who will accept Housing Choice Vouchers can sometimes be difficult for a variety of reasons, she and her family instead temporarily moved in with someone who would let them stay in a bedroom.
Cassie’s family has deep roots in Kansas City. “I grew up in North Kansas City. I was raised by my great great aunt and uncle. They had that house built after World War II.” Cassie speaks with great admiration of the aunt and uncle who raised her. “He fought in World War II; she was a WAC in the military.”
“My mom’s family is a big family,” she says. “They’re all over. Paul’s Drive In… my cousins work there; they’ve worked there for over 20 years. Max Penny was my mom’s uncle; he owned a grocery store on Merriam Lane that used to be ReStore.”
Hoping to find a better way to keep her family in Kansas City, Cassie talked to a housing counselor at CHWC, who helped her apply for CHWC’s House to Home Program. This rental program is designed to make renters into owners by the end of the 15-year rental period. Cassie was accepted into House to Home – it was then up to her to decide if the home would be hers.
“I saved and saved and saved for the rent and the deposit for 6 months,” she says. “I had one more day before my voucher was up, and I got it. I’ve been here ever since.”
So her story had a happy ending.
The Long Summer
But Cassie is one of many heads of households that has dealt with high utility costs and other problems during COVID-19 that have made it difficult for them to continue providing for the basic needs of their families. “I don’t even keep my lights on,” she says. But her bills kept increasing as the COVID-19 pandemic wore on; this is part of a larger trend many families experienced this year.
Cassie didn’t want to let her family down. “I saved for so long,” she says. “I don’t want to lose what I have.”
CHWC housing counselors were able to identify Cassie and her family as possible candidates for CARES Act relief granted to CHWC through the Unified Government. With that relief award, CHWC was able to cover Cassie’s utility payments and rent for the month of October and November.
“It took a lot of stress off of me, because I didn’t know if I was going to be able to pay for everything,” Cassie says. “I was able to get my granddaughter two outfits and a toy for her birthday – which I haven’t been able to do since she was born.” Cassie’s granddaughter just celebrated her 3rd birthday last month.
Thanks to the support of many who have contributed to CHWC’s work, community members like Cassie can continue having a space to thrive and grow their families.
Speaking about her home, Cassie says, “When I first moved in, it was amazing to me. Now it’s part of me. It’s my home. This is my safe zone.”
“What I love about the house the most is that I can make it mine,” she adds. “There’s room for my kids. They can come and stay with me. I can garden and things like that, and I have a backyard.”
Cassie says she likes to grow “anything that’s pretty.” “One year I had pumpkin vines,” she says. “I transplanted lilies. I love flowers. I can go to Lowe’s and get the distressed plants, and I’m good at bringing them back to life.”
Cassie’s message to anyone struggling during COVID-19 is that, “We should be there for one another … Even if it is just to talk. All our problems are different, but we are all the same.”
To CHWC’s many supporters, the people who make this work possible, she has a message, too: “Thank you. We have a wonderful home because of [you], and what [you] do makes it so much better.”
If you, your family, or loved ones are experiencing difficult financial times, please reach out to CHWC to talk with a housing counselor today. Our counselors can provide support and resources to help you meet your goals, gain financial security, or find a place to truly call home.