Imagine you are a mother living in a single room with your husband and four small children, 4 boys and 1 girl. The space you occupy with your family is infested with roaches and rats, and there is no central air to cool the hot summers nor is there heat to warm the cold winters. The kids are constantly getting sick. Some are coughing, some have tummy aches and others have a cold that never ends. You repeatedly find yourself in the emergency room in a desperate attempt to cure your child’s ills.
When you go home, and you get a moment to yourself, you feel ashamed because the living environment is causing your family pain. You are ashamed to invite family and friends for dinner because there is no were to sit. This was the story of Alejandra Cruz before she became a tenant of Esperanza Community Housing Corporation at a building called Senderos.
For twenty years, Alejandra has been a resident in South Central Los Angeles moving from single room to single room with her 5 children; one of them was Roberto. When he was in 5th grade Roberto remembers moving into a building on the corner of 2141 Estrella Ave. Before Esperanza renovated the building, Roberto remembers the space being a little bigger than previous rooms, but still not big enough for a family of seven, “there was no space,” he says. “Our parents, my brothers and sister all shared one bed.” “It was hard to go to school and get ready in the morning.”
Now think back to when you were 11 years old and you want to invite your friends over to hang out. If you were Roberto this was unthinkable because of the lack of space. You show up to school with bug bites all over your arms, because the building you live in is infested with bed bugs. One day your mom says “we’re moving they’re going to remodel the building” you don’t know what the move entails but you pack up and leave.
Roberto had no idea the next time he would move back into the building on Estrella avenue, he would be walking into a completely renovated 3 bedroom apartment. Alejandra says that the emergency visits were officially over. Gone were the tummy aches, and incessant coughs. The bed bugs have also vanished. The Cruz family is breathing easier, and finding time to consistently go to school and stop missing work.
This is what it means to have healthy housing, this is what it means to transform a life through housing restoration. As Alejandra puts it,“ the newly remodeled building gave us our health back.” Now Angela and her children, Roberto who is now 21, can enjoy the company of family and friends in their spacious apartment. Alejandra loves seeing Roberto and her other children hang out in the living room. “Everybody works and goes to school,” “We’re all doing good,” she says as her face lights up.
Senderos Interview to Alejandra and Roberto Cruz
Interview: Monic and Fabiola. Story written by drea.