Cassandra M. is a native New Yorker, who grew up in BedStuy, Brooklyn and in Queens. After Cassandra’s mother passed away when Cassandra was just a toddler, she was raised by a series of relatives. She dreamed of being a veterinarian, and has a passion for animals that remains to this day.
As a young girl, Cassandra loved to play and work in her Great-Aunt’s backyard and garden. As she got older, she helped to maintain the house and yard. She remembers the Muscadine grapes that grew in the yard – her Great-Aunt made wine from them, but Cassandra liked to eat them right off the vine. “I learned what it meant to take pride in your home and how it represents you,” she said.
By the time she was 16, Cassandra was working part time, running the household and caring for her elderly Great-Aunt, and yet, she graduated from high school and attended college for one year.
Cassandra worked as an NYCT Bus Operator for 13 years, and now is a Fleet Driver for a health insurance company. She has lived in her current home for nearly 20 years, but “I don’t call it home, because it’s not a home, not to me anyway.” She lives with her three ‘children,’ her cats Allae, Phelan and Tiggee. The building has had a series of issues, from blackouts (“Try climbing to the sixth floor with nothing but a flashlight.”) to a three-month period without an elevator. There is often garbage in the hallways, which smell like urine, and often residents do not clean up after their pets in the outdoor areas. She dreamed about living in a home, like she did as a child; for the past five years, she has looked into buying a home in Connecticut, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, but none of the houses were right.
Despite knowing about Habitat NYC’s Home Purchase Program, Cassandra never thought she would qualify. But in a twist of fate, she happened upon a Habitat NYC information session, and discovered that we were accepting applications for homeownership in South Jamaica. She applied, and hoped, and saved, and was accepted. She will be a Habitat homeowner. “I am ready for this,” she said. “I know it won’t be easy, but nothing in my past has been easy, and I’ve survived it all.”
She already feels ownership of her future Habitat home – she has shoveled snow from the sidewalk, her sidewalk. She has picked up flyers from the porch, and measured the fence in order to have it replaced. She plans to put in a garage. “I’m so excited [that] I want to do everything as fast as possible,” she said.