My name is Melissa and this is my story.
I grew up in Canarsie Brooklyn in Bay View Houses, a Project Based Section 8 Development, in a middle income neighborhood. After graduating high school, I married my childhood sweetheart at the age of 18 and we joined the United States Army and served together in Seoul, Korea. I took an early leave from the military when we started our small family. Within two years, we separated and I was forced to stay with family while I looked for housing on my limited income. I remember packing my two children early in the morning with lunches and snacks, riding elevated trains so I could “assess” the community from above. I would ask complete strangers about the neighborhood and everywhere, everyone told me not to move there.
After moving around for two years I found project Based Section 8 housing development in Sunset Park Brooklyn, where I raised my children, Jeffrey, now 23 and Victoria, now 22. Had it not been for this housing development, I am not sure I would have been able to manage the rent on Public Assistance. But my story is far from woeful.
I used social services as a leg up and not a hand out. While I still receive a rental subsidy, I have always been employed by groups serving my community. I currently serve on several non profit boards. I work for the federally funded Weatherization Assistance Program and perform outreach to service low income developments, which are quickly shrinking in our gentrifying communities – so my job is currently at risk.
I am a product of affordable housing, a tenant of affordable housing and an advocate for affordable housing, because from my childhood I cannot tell you where I might have ended up otherwise.
My dream is to run for office so that I can put measures in place to help other families like mine, still struggling like I did then, so they won’t