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Westport Mother: “I’m Your Face of Affordable Housing”
Shannon Hanley: “We have pride in our community, too.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) WN photo from Westport Town TelevisionA single mother of four Thursday night made an emotional plea for more affordable housing in Westport, telling the Planning and Zoning Commission: “I’m your face of affordable housing—it’s me.”
Shannon Hanley, 39, who said she lives in a two-bedroom house in the Westport Housing Authority’s Hales Court project, said approval by the commission of a planned expansion of the project to 78 units was essential. The commission will vote on the application next week.
Her voice breaking at times, Hanley said: “I urge you to pass this project because we need to get this going because my son is turning 8, and soon I will be giving him my bedroom so he has his own space. And I’m not the only one.”
After introducing herself, Hanley told the commission: “And for the record I am not a drug addict, alcoholic or psychotic.”
She was referring to testimony earlier of a resident of a nearby street who warned that 10 supportive housing units in the expansion could be occupied by drug addicts, alcoholics or mentally ill persons.
Following are excerpts from Hanley’s remarks:
“I’ve lived in Westport nearly seven years; I am involved in the community. I was the organizer for every nail, board, screw and plank you see at the Compo Beach playground project. (I’m) very proud of that—I still call it mine.
“I’m your face of affordable housing. It’s me. I have two children that go to Westport schools. I have a child in college. We have four of us living in a two-bedroom house. I’m not alone.
“I have a very good friend who lives across the street. She’s a single mom, has put herself through school, has just graduated in a nursing program and is now working in a hospital.
“I have another good friend who has two children, also in a two-bedroom house, and she has given both bedrooms to her children, and she herself doesn’t have a room. We’re not the enemy, and we’re certainly not going to devalue someone’s property.
“We take care of our properties. We have gardens. We maintain them ourselves currently … We manage our own trash. We manage our own snowplows, and we do just fine.
“We have families that need this housing, not just me. There’s a family of five living in a two-bedroom house that my kids play with every day. These are friends. “
“We’re a community. We’re just as much a community as Jennie Lane and Drumlin Road … We don’t have a lot of money, no, but we support the community, our schools, and each other with our time, and our commitment, and our patience, and our pride.
“We have pride in our community, too. I’ve heard us being called ‘these people.’ I heard it as ‘the projects.’ I think if you ask most of Westport, they don’t know it exists because affordable housing as far as most people in Westport are concerned … they don’t think about it. It doesn’t need to exist. But it does.
“And people like me who, as a single parent, am putting my daughter through college, and I returned to college also. I’m putting myself through school. So I want you guys not to pay attention to what you hear as scary—of the drug addicts, and alcoholics, and mentally ill.
“And look at me. This is what you need. This is what our community really needs. With 200 people on the wait list, it’s needed now. And it has been. … And the ‘not-in-my-backyard attitude’ is what prevents us from getting more …
“Hey, as long as we get affordable housing, I don’t care where it goes and how it gets there. But it needs to get there. And it needs to get there soon.
“Seventy-eight projects I keep hearing is too much, and quite honestly, if they wanted to, they could have put more. But I think they tried to keep the scale and scope down to make it fit into the community and help increase the property values around us.
“And I think they actually should be applauded for the efforts and the care and the consideration they’ve taken not only with our neighboring streets but with us as residents and treating us as people and not just ‘those people.’ And bringing the humanity into it which is important.
“I urge you to pass this project because we need to get this going because my son is turning 8, and soon I will be giving him my bedroom so he has his own space. And I’m not the only one. Thank you.”
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