Making a Home of Her Own in Brooklyn


It took Kaleena Small greater than three years to seek out an condo.

“I attempted every little thing — lotteries, common Realtors. I crammed out 60 to 70 functions, however I used to be simply getting rejection letters, rejection letters,” she stated. “I might even go in my work uniform to allow them to see I’m working.”

Ms. Small, 38, lived in a home violence shelter together with her younger daughter from the spring of 2017 to Might of final 12 months, when she lastly received a one-bedroom condo on the Fountains, an inexpensive housing growth in East New York, Brooklyn.

Ms. Small grew up within the Allerton neighborhood of the Bronx, the place she additionally lived together with her boyfriend — they had been “highschool sweethearts,” she stated — and the daddy of her daughter, Keandra Brown, 6.

“One minute, every little thing was cool, and the following … He wasn’t unhealthy together with his child, however he wasn’t proper with me,” she stated. “I couldn’t increase my child, my daughter, in a home violence family. I don’t need that for my child in any respect; I don’t need that for anyone.”

When Ms. Small left her boyfriend, she and Keandra went to a short-term home violence shelter in East Harlem, after which transferred to a longer-term home violence shelter in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Regardless of having labored since she was 16 — in quick meals at McDonald’s and Burger King, in amusement park operations at Rye Playland and as a safety guard for varied firms — Ms. Small had by no means lived alone and couldn’t afford to.

At first, she was joyful to have the assist of the shelter. She was given a furnished one-bedroom to share together with her daughter and located the parenting and monetary administration lessons useful.

“I used to be scared to be alone — I had by no means been on my own and I wanted that additional assist,” she stated. “They’d stuff we wanted to know earlier than hitting the actual world. It taught me independence and rising up extra.”

The shelter additionally related her with metropolis employment packages that helped her discover better-paid work, doing upkeep with the New York Metropolis Division of Parks and Recreation and the Division of Sanitation. “Working with sanitation, I cashed a $1,000 test,” she stated. “I had by no means cashed a $1,000 test earlier than. I used to be loving it.”

Ms. Small looked for a everlasting house the entire time she was within the shelter, however discovered there was no place to go. Though she obtained a housing voucher as a part of the expansion of the Family Eviction Prevention Supplement program, the landlords she met wished greater than the maximum rent allowed by this system. (Underneath present pointers, a household of two can spend not more than $1,268 a month.)

“At one place, they stated sure, however then they instructed me they received the next bid,” Ms. Small stated. Regardless of assurances that they’d preserve her in thoughts if the rest turned accessible, she by no means heard from them once more.

Finally, she had higher luck with the housing lottery.


$0 | East New York, Brooklyn

Hire: The condo’s $931 month-to-month hire is roofed fully by a rental help voucher, as Ms. Small is staying house to look after her daughter in the course of the pandemic.
Occupation: Till the pandemic, she was a upkeep employee at New York Metropolis Division of Parks and Recreation and the Sanitation Division.
She likes the world: “It’s not too rah-rah, not too rowdy. Nobody’s hanging out on the steps, smoking.”
The one factor lacking: A deli. “That’s the one factor I received an issue with,” she stated. “The constructing subsequent door, they need to put a deli there.”
Her future adorning plans: embody portray. “I’m bored with white partitions,” Ms. Small stated. “I’d like a pleasant purple, not too darkish.”


Final March, she obtained a name from the Fountains, a mixed-use growth in East New York, Brooklyn, constructed by the Arker Corporations, which is able to ultimately have 1,163 items of inexpensive housing. The primary part of the challenge had simply been accomplished, and he or she was invited to come back in for an interview and tour.

She tried to not get too excited. “Every part was shutting down due to Covid-19. I believed I’d be within the shelter for an additional 12 months,” she stated. “However then, two days after I noticed the condo, they known as me and stated, ‘You bought accepted.’ I began screaming.”

“It was the top to the wrestle,” she stated, of “me being within the shelter and getting away from him.”

In Might, she moved right into a one-bedroom condo that rents for $931 a month; she pays $400, with the rest coated by a rental help voucher. When colleges shut down and he or she needed to go away her job to care for Keandra, her hire dropped to nothing. (With the uncertainty of in-person lessons, Ms. Small has been unable to return to work.)

The condo is the primary house for which Ms. Small and Keandra have been ready to select furnishings and beautify. “I by no means had my very own furnishings earlier than,” Ms. Small stated. “At my final condo, nothing was mine; every little thing was his, his, his. Right here, I had somewhat serving to hand from my household. Everybody was excited that I left him and that that is my first crib on my own.”

Ms. Small took the lounge as her bed room and gave her daughter the condo’s massive bed room, which Keandra adorned together with her intensive assortment of “Frozen”-movie-themed gadgets: She has a “Frozen” rug, bedsheets, desk and chairs.

“I wished Keandra to have her personal house. I additionally like that I can have peace of thoughts in my room,” she stated. “On the shelter, we had room inspection and curfew. I simply wished to be freed from every little thing.”

Apart from the individuals, she added, with whom she stays in contact utilizing Zoom.

At her new constructing, she has managed to make a couple of mates within the midst of the pandemic, however not the way in which she did on the shelter.

“I used to be like a star there; everybody likes my power,” she stated. “I make individuals snicker and smile once they’re down. I’m like an enormous, goofy child at coronary heart.”




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