Spare Change News
I went to the Massachusetts State House Feb. 15 for the third annual Cookie Day. I thought it would be similar to a bake sale for the State House in order to support funding for housing, or there would be a march or rally of some sort to support funding for housing.
It turns out that Haley House in Dudley Square makes cookies for the guests who attend the meeting to support the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP). They make house-shaped cookies that state get handed out to the state lawmakers and their staffs. The cookies were delicious, I don’t care for peanut butter cookies but I ate four of them.
Rosie’s Place representatives Anne Sheldon and Sana Fidel and I gave a cookie to the secretaries of lawmakers Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz and Reps. Elizabeth Malia and Aaron Michlewitz. We had to leave our cookies with our representatives’ secretaries because our representatives apparently were not in the building.
Several state lawmakers were at the event, but nothing was more moving than the speeches of two women. The audience wanted to cry when we all heard the story about Wanda.
Wanda is a single mom living in a hotel with her son Damian. Damian is severely handicapped and relies on his mother’s constant attention. He can’t walk or talk and is constantly in the hospital, and is highly medicated.
Damian is only four years old and should be having fun with his friends but can’t. His mother has no friends or family to help her care for Damian, and his father is a runaway. Wanda’s hotel has no kitchen, and is forced to cook in the bathroom, where she keeps his medicine. Wanda has been in the hotel for over a year now and still has no prospects for housing. She’s been to college, and has been trying to find a job, but it’s hard when your child depends on you for everything.
So many people just wanted to cry when Wanda was speaking. Even she couldn’t quite hold back the tears that were welling up in her eyes because of how hard a life she has. It is very disappointing know she does not have any prospectives for getting permanent housing anytime soon.
Altia became homeless after her parents died. They didn’t have any insurance so she has to use the little money she had to pay for their funerals. paying for their funerals and struggling to pay her many other debts made Altia become homeless.
She sought out help from DTA (Department of Transitional Assistance) for her and her children. 13 months ago she met Peggy Andreas, a nurse who was visiting the hotel. Her youngest child has never had a place to call home. They’ve been in a hotel, motel, shelter, and several scatter sites. Altia been to school and has been looking for jobs, but has had no luck due to her lack of a permanent residence.
CHAPA (Citizens Housing And Planning Association), and several other agencies are asking the governor for $46 million to support the MRVP (Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program). Peggy Andreas, who works for Healthcare for The Homeless, has stated that she has known Altia for 13 months. She points out that hotels are not good for children. “They are safety hazards and health hazards, especially when children or their parents have a precondition health problem like asthma. It’s difficult for children to grow and thrive. Hotels are no place to raise a family they need permanent housing.”
Libby Hayes gave Representative Brian Dempsey at the event a plaque and a huge house-shaped cookie for his work in helping the homeless. A CHAPA representative pointed out simply that we need more affordable housing. That’s the real purpose of Cookie Day, as Diane and Nilaya put it; “We need more housing, and we need you representatives to help us get the funding we need in order to help people like Wanda and Altia. Without funding we can’t help the people who need housing the most, the children.”
BEATRICE BELL is a Spare Change News writer and vendor.
Damian Fernandez being held by his mom Wanda Fernandez at Cookie Day