Terri Rodriguez was stationed at the bottom of a slide at the Bronstein Apartments public housing project on Tuesday afternoon, taking photos of her kids and their cousins as they raced each other down.
Her 11-year-old daughter and five-year-old son played happily with the other kids, watched over by Terri and their aunt and uncle.
Terri ‘s happy she’s been able to arrange her work schedule to accommodate times like these. She’s a licensed nursing assistant, taking care of a client at his home. Her 8-to-2 workday starts right after she drops her kids off at school in the morning and ends half an hour before they get out. That means she doesn’t have to pay for a babysitter after school, but it also means she never gets a weekend with the kids. She works seven days a week.
The home care work is a second career for Terri. She spent a decade working at a factory before it started downsizing. In the third round of layoffs, she was let go.
For a little while she was jobless and adrift. She and her daughter stayed with relatives here and there before they got approved for an apartment at Bronstein.
With the help of the state employment office, Terri trained for the LNA job. She figured it was a good field—if the home care agency hadn’t been hiring, one of the hospitals in the area probably would have been. And there’s room to move up to a better job in health care.
Terri loves the work. She helps people returning home after serious medical treatments, watches them take their first steps out of bed thanks to the care she’s given them.
“Basically you’re helping them start their lives over again,” she said. “They look forward to seeing you. It’s nice. It’s really rewarding.”
Financially, the work is less rewarding.
“The pay’s OK,” she said. “It’s not the best, but it’s better than not having a job at all.”
Terri said she gets by partly by taking the occasional extra shift when someone calls in sick. And she gets child care help from her family. Her daughter’s father has the girl on the weekends, but she depends on her mother and aunt to take care of her son.
“My family’s very supportive,” she said.
Still, Terri’s income is not enough for her to pay for a place where she’d really like to live—a private apartment, or, even better, her own house.
She’s been at the Bronstein Apartments for four years. She said she doesn’t mind it, except when there’s violence. Last summer, the project made the news all over the state for a brawl where one man was stabbed and another had his arm broken.
“It’s not really a place where I want to keep my kids,” she said.
Other than the occasional violence, Terri said, the complex isn’t that bad. Then I asked if her apartment was decent, and she laughed.
“Oh, I hate my apartment,” she said.
The place is big enough—a three-bedroom, two-bathroom unit with plenty of space for her and the two kids. But it’s right next to the boiler room so the temperature’s 85 or higher all summer. She said she can’t usually afford to keep it cooler.
“You have to pay $30 a month per air conditioner,” she said.