If someone had told Cyrena Burns a year ago that she would be living in a brand-new, beautiful, two-bedroom duplex by the end of 2019, she would have shaken her head or laughed at them. It was around that time that she had started thinking to herself, “I am never going to stop having bad luck.”
Then, last June, she was taking a friend to work and saw a sign for Prairie View Estates. At the time, she did not have any idea if the new development coming to the north end of Ottawa would be in her budget. She just knew she had to at least try. When she discovered that there were affordable, income-based units available, she let herself begin to believe that just maybe her luck would soon be turning.
Twenty-six years earlier, Cyrena had moved from Overland Park to Ottawa with her husband and two children. In her eyes she had it all–a beautiful home, healthy kids, and a husband with whom she was still in love. Then, after 23 years of marriage and while on deployment, her husband decided he no longer wanted to be married to her. Having recently left a secure job in order to spend more time at home with her son before he graduated from high school, Cyrena began suffering from depression.
This was the beginning of Cyrena’s education on the lack of safe, clean and affordable housing, a combination she didn’t think she would likely be able to ever have again. When the rent on her safe and clean apartment was raised five years ago, she had to move and could only afford a house with floors so soft she thought she was going to fall through. On day two in what she dubbed “the house from hell”, sewage began backing up into the tub and then later, covering the entire first floor. She knew she couldn’t stay. She was eventually let out of her lease and, with no other affordable options available, had to move in with her mom and sleep on her couch. Sometimes, in order to give herself and her mom some personal space, Cyrena would opt to sleep in her car.
She felt desperate.
It was during that state of desperation, that Cyrena noticed the sign for Prairie View Estates, which was being built and developed by the Prairie Fire Development Group in Kansas City, made possible through low income housing tax credits awarded through the Kansas Housing Resource Corporation. On a whim, she called. Having never been on any type of housing assistance, she didn’t fully know what affordable housing really was, but quickly learned she would not need to be on housing assistance to qualify for an affordable unit. “There have definitely been some misconceptions around town. The chatter was that this was just going to be a place filled with drug addicts, but that could not be further from the truth. The people living here are the most giving and kind people. This town has needed a place like this for a long time.”
After being one of the first residents to move into Prairie View last month, Cyrena believes her luck has turned around. She has a home that is not only safe and clean, but she also has an attached garage and wide doors that allow her to easily access every room in her home while using her walker. “This is my start-over,” she said. “I can do this on my own. I can afford my rent, plus enough for groceries. I know I won’t fall because the floors are warped. I know there will be air conditioning. The layout is perfect. They thought of everything. Having my own personal space means the world to me. I feel like I have my dignity back.”
A self-supporting, nonprofit, public corporation, Kansas Housing helps Kansans access the safe, affordable housing they need and the dignity they deserve. For more information about our work, please visit our website.