From Celebrating Millers River:
As a lifelong musician, patience to conduct a masterpiece has become second nature for one of Millers River’s newest residents, Lewis West, after a near-decade wait on the CHA waiting list to land a coveted unit in the now completely modernized property in East Cambridge. Originally from Florida, West has lived in Cambridge since 1997 after moving up north with his band to pursue music opportunities in the Boston-area. West has grown fond of life in Cambridge.
“I am legally blind. My eyesight faded little by little over the last 30 years and is now gone,” disclosed West. “The way Cambridge is structured, along with its people who are so kind, and this amazing building, I am so fortunate to have it this good. Everything has aligned perfectly to fit my needs and my happiness.”
Demand for affordable housing has risen drastically across the country, especially in one of the highest real estate markets in the country, Cambridge, Massachusetts. With waiting lists amounting to more than 21,000 people for Cambridge Housing Authority programs alone, the agency has been at the forefront of building and preserving quality Affordable Housing for generations to come. The revitalization of Millers River Apartments is part of a $1 Billion investment plan by the agency and its partners to tackle the issue head-on within the CHA portfolio.
“I love when people see our properties and can’t believe it’s affordable housing,” shared CHA’s Deputy Executive Director, Brenda Snowden Downing. “In our quest to provide more, we are also changing the stigma of what affordable housing has to look like.”
In an effort to further humanize the waiting list crisis, the Cambridge Housing Authority released their “Stories of the Can’t Wait List: Who Are The 21,000?” publication in 2021 available on its website and in print for free, featuring primarily the voices and appeals of actual people from CHA’s waiting lists.
“Nothing has been more satisfying as calling a family from the waitlist, walking them through the screening process, and making an offer of an affordable home in Cambridge,” CHA Executive Director Michael J. Johnston told editors of the agency’s Can’t Wait List publication. “Similarly, nothing has caused me more anguish than informing a family on the waitlist that they have a five to ten year wait for the affordable home they need today.”
For West, the son of a mason and a stay-at-home mom who raised eight children, he makes the most of any situation and implores people on the waiting list to be patient, “There is light at the end of the tunnel. It will surprise you when you receive the call, like it did for me,” said West thoughtfully. “I can honestly say, it was worth the wait. Because if it weren’t for CHA, I don’t know if I would still be in Cambridge, a community that has proven to be exactly what I need.”
“The cost of living has become too high. Now, I’m where I want to be, and furthermore, in a supportive place here at Millers River,” explained West. “Like Yaw for example. He has such a great personality. He reaches out to me a lot to make sure I’m okay and doing well. He is always willing to listen and is so patient. I am proud to have him in my corner.”
Yaw Adjei-Koranteng is one of several CHA Service Coordinator’s positioned throughout the agency’s elderly-disabled and family sites, respectively. Adjei-Koranteng is a fast favorite for many at Millers River and has 16 years experience in providing elderly support.
West is happy with his fate, as he only applied for housing at one agency -— CHA. He leans back in his chair with a sense of relief and sighs, “I feel safe. I feel at home. This journey has been quite the blessing. I’ve made it.”