The People: ‘Making it work’ in cramped quarters
Groton – Christine Santos sleeps with her two youngest children at her feet, their toddler beds tucked into the cramped master bedroom in Branford Manor where the closet overflows with all the gear of a growing family.
Santos was the single mother of one daughter when she moved to the public housing complex 14 years ago. Now the baby girl is a teenager taking up residence in the apartment’s other bedroom.
“We’re making it work, but eventually they’re going to outgrow these toddler beds,” Santos said of her 1- and 3-year-old sons. “I’m going to have to figure out something else.”
Santos put her name in for an upgrade to a three-bedroom unit at the same complex more than a year ago but is still waiting. She said her middle son’s pediatrician and his therapist recommended he have his own room after he was diagnosed with autism. They say it will help his sleeping and sensory issues.
She would have moved already if not for the fact that waiting lists for subsidized apartments like hers – or for the more flexible housing choice vouchers that renters can take with them if they move anywhere in the United States – are years long if they’re open at all.
Santos pays $202 per month for the federally-subsidized apartment based on her income, which currently consists of the social security payment she gets for her disabled son. She left her full-time job as an assistant social worker for a home health care agency to care for her son when he was diagnosed. Before that, she earned $18.86 per hour and paid $875 a month for rent.
Federal housing subsidies work by covering the difference between the cost of rent and the family’s ability to pay. The program rests on the idea that a household should not spend more than 30% of its income on housing.
Santos said she’s expanding her search to Florida and Georgia, where she has family, because her choices are so limited in Connecticut.
“I really want to have options and not feel like I’m stuck, like I’ve been feeling,” she said.