Waitlist Success Q&A Series – Daisy Ozuna: ‘We Are More Than Just Numbers’

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In 2021, the Cambridge Housing Authority released its “Can’t Wait List: Who Are The 21,000?” original publication to help humanize the many issues surrounding the affordable housing crisis seen on the national stage and, specifically, the steep demand for low affordable housing inventory across Massachusetts.

Cambridge alone is one of the most expensive real estate markets in the country.

This resource proved to be a valuable tool, as real people from the CHA’s actual waiting lists were able to appeal to readers in their own words as to what a successful outcome after years-long wait times would mean to them.

Local family support worker, mother, and Dominican Republic native, Daisy Ozuna, recently received the call that the more than 21,000 individuals are hoping to receive.

CHA: How did it feel to pick up the phone and hear the news?

Daisy: “I have had quite the journey, my life could be a movie. So many rough patches and so many lessons, but everything has a purpose, I truly believe that. I really would like to write a book one day because I have learned so much in my life, and now I am led by my faith and a renewed approach.

When I received the call, I was at my lowest point in life. I was exhausted and was contemplating moving back home and starting over again. I wanted to give up on chasing the American life so many people dream about.

I will never forget the call from CHA employee, Johanny Bouman, to offer me a two-bedroom apartment at one of their properties in Cambridge — I screamed. Poor girl, I just screamed and screamed, thanking God and feeling very ready to walk through the door of this new opportunity because my kids deserve it. This is what I’ve worked for and all of a sudden my patience felt like it was starting to pay off after so many years of bouncing around and trying new things.”

CHA: We are so happy we could help. How long did it take to get into your new place?

Daisy: “That part is a little funny, because I remember Johanny taking me through the next steps in that same phone conversation. She asked when I could get her certain documents and I remember telling her I could go right now. She then asked when I would like to go see the apartment, to which I also replied ‘right now’.

We had a good laugh, but I was serious. We ended up settling on seeing it the next morning. I moved in January 2023.”

CHA: Do you remember your first impression when you walked in to see the unit?

Daisy: “I loved it the second I saw it. The place was beautiful. It was emotional to know it would be mine. Do you know what it means to have a washer and dryer at home? Things like that are often overlooked if you’ve never been through the struggle of having kids and needing to do your laundry at a laundromat. It meant no more lugging heavy trash bags and carrying or pulling your kids along in the cold.

That’s life-changing.

My other favorite thing was seeing the beautiful kitchen. I couldn’t wait to use it to spoil my family.”

CHA: You mentioned your life could be a movie, are there any moments in particular that stand out to you?

Daisy: “Plenty. There are so many to choose from, we could chat forever. When I was 15, I moved for the first time in search of a better future, I ended up in Puerto Rico. A couple years after that, I made it to Florida. Then in 1999, I arrived to Boston. After that I moved to other places such as North Carolina and even back home to the Dominican Republic, all for new opportunities to where I had family members waiting to welcome me.

During my time in Florida, I worked in a field under the hot sun. The company I worked for grew plants and orchids. It was my job to maintain them. While doing that job, the things I complained about my country would run through my head. Here I am in the United States, doing a job my family would pay others to do in the DR. It didn’t sit well with me. I left Florida and never looked back.

I remember sleeping at my aunt’s house newly arrived to Boston with blankets on a hard floor with my kids, feeling that my destiny was to build here in this area. It just felt right. The good schools are here, the good programs are here, and like any mom, I want the best for my children.

I realized, when in search for a better life, going city to city isn’t necessarily the solution, it has to be within you first to find the drive, motivation, and self-love to make things happen and live a full life. Once I realized that, I went into another gear.”

CHA: Your positive outlook is inspiring. What keeps you going?

Daisy: “My faith keeps me going. I’ve suffered a lot of loss, including my late son and husband. I have learned to be persistent and strong, especially for my children.

I first applied for an apartment with the CHA in 2009. Like those 21,000 people, the updates don’t seem to come frequent enough, so I would make visits to make sure my information was up to date and that I was active on the list. I didn’t give up, whether it made a difference or not, I had to keep trying.”

CHA: What would your message be to people currently on the waiting list?

Daisy: “I am now more understanding of the process and what the CHA is up against. Everyone wants to be in Cambridge and there is only so little to go around. I am in awe now that I’m living at a CHA property at how much this agency is about more than just housing and how much they care about helping people. I know it’s easy to get frustrated, like I did, while your name isn’t called yet, but please know that the process doesn’t sit in one person’s hand entirely. Good people at the CHA are working everyday to keep, and get, people housed in such a demanding market. I wish we all could band together and make calls to help fight the affordable housing crisis, because we are more than just numbers.”

CHA: Thank you for the kind words, and especially the encouragement to those still waiting. Would you like to add anything else?

Daisy: “I really do appreciate the good people I have crossed paths with at the CHA, especially you and Johanny. When trying to utilize resources to get help, people aren’t always met with a smile and are sometimes made to feel like a nuisance, when in fact, we are all equals. We deserve to give each other good energy. Otherwise, what are we doing?

Johanny, for example, has a heart of gold. She has a great touch and is amazing. You don’t see people like her everywhere. That is what is needed on the front lines, more people like her.

My self-esteem has gone through the roof because I have a home of my own now in such an amazing city. Ask my friends, they all see me as a ball of light now, no more darkness.

Cambridge is a healthy environment. It is safe, beautiful, accessible, and has great transportation options. These are things everyone should be able to enjoy.

I love it here. I am at peace. I am home.”