Chrystal Brown and Her Family
Chrystal Brown is a single mom with three children and has lived in Sarasota’s public housing for six years. She recently moved from Cohen Way to Janie Poe. The Cohen Way building that was her home is scheduled for demolition and will become condos built by a Habitat for Humanity partnership.
Chrystal grew up in Miami and now both she and her mother make their home in Sarasota. Life has been a struggle for Chrystal as she recently lost her job and she battles illness. Her kids provide a light in her life.
The upcoming redevelopment of Sarasota’s public housing leaves her a bit fearful. She doesn’t know what the future holds for her. She really wants to be able to return to the redeveloped public housing. But her fear is two-fold; how will she manage during the "transition" period, when her unit is demolished and she lives in a different house while she waits for a new unit - if she gets one? This is the second part of her fear, will she be one of the families that can return?
Moving is difficult for a low income, single parent. Any time you move there are additional expenses such as first month’s rent, a deposit that can range from $500 to $1300, moving expenses like renting a truck, hookup charges for telephone, electric, etc., application fees, and other costs. If she moves off-site for a year or two, then back on-site, these costs become difficult.
While Chrystal has some friends in Sarasota, she spends much of her time with her kids - and watching out for their safety. The kids are not allowed to be out of her sight. There are too many distractions and safety issues (like other kids zooming through Janie Poe on mopeds at high speed) for her to be comfortable letting the kids roam around.
Has she seen much change since HUD took over the Housing Authority? Surprisingly she says not a lot has changed in her daily life. When Rudy Vazmina was in charge, he would come by every day or two and ask how things were going and would direct maintenance to work on problems identified by the residents. She doesn’t see much of Carmen Valenti or Bill Russell (the HUD Receiver and the Housing Authority Executive Director). It seems to her that they are less "connected’ now.
But life goes on, she worries that many current residents may become homeless during the redevelopment process, she looks for a job but can only work specific hours because someone needs to watch the kids, she thinks a lot about re-starting her own business - a cleaning service - since that would give her some flexibility in hours. But there are licence fees and insurance costs to pay.
She is very happy to have a roof over her family.