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The Stimulus At Work: A Family Finds A Home In Chelsea

BOSTON — Where is the stimulus money going? Over the coming months, we will meet some of the people who have received some of the $9 billion promised to Massachusetts. In our second report, the story of how the federal funds helped a family get housing in Chelsea.


Annyeliz Sanchez fusses as her mother tries to give her a snack.  She’s a creative two-year-old.  In the space of a small hotel room, she has created a bed for her stuffed animals in a dresser drawer. She walks her empty baby carriage back and forth in front of the double beds and she can open the window and drop things onto the parking lot.

For her mother, Janneliz Vega, the hotel room the family is living in does not have enough space. She waves her hand around the small room, a dozen silver bracelets clinking. Vega, 21, says raising a child in the confines of a hotel room is very difficult.

While living in a Boston hotel room, Annyeliz Sanchez, 2, created a bed for her stuffed animals -- in a drawer. (Monica Brady-Myerov/WBUR)

“Food-wise, they don’t have nothing to cook here,” Vega said. “Everything that me and Annyeliz been eating is microwave food.”  She says there’s no laundry on site, either.

Vega and her daughter were placed in this Boston hotel on Dec. 10, after she fled from an abusive boyfriend. The state’s family shelters were full, so Vega joined the more than a 1,000 other Massachusetts families living in a hotel or motel room — at a cost of almost $3 million a month to the state.

The state told Vega what they told the other families: Prepare to live in the hotel for up to two years. Vega says she can’t imagine that.

“I can’t, I couldn’t,” Vega said. “I don’t know what I would do. I would work four jobs to get the market rate. It was horrible.”

The federal stimulus money for homeless services came at a good time for Vega, as the state received almost $18.5 million for homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing of people living in shelters and motels.  Two million dollars went to Heading Home, an agency that is trying to end homelessness in Greater Boston.  It used the money to hire six new case workers and gave the rest to families to help pay a first year of rent.

This aid, says Executive Director Tom Lorello, is how Vega ended up with a case worker from Heading Home after only two months in the hotel.

“I remember when I first met Janneliz,” Lorello said.  “One of the first things she said to me is, ‘I just need a little help getting out of there. I don’t need help forever, I just need some help getting out.’ And that’s what this money was meant to do, just give people a little boost up to get them over the hump out of a hotel and out of this situation.”

Vega did get a boost. After she found a job, the case worker helped her find an apartment in Chelsea.  Vega will get $1,000 a month from stimulus money to help with the rent.

“I’m thankful for that,” Vega said.

Heading Home says it’s using the federal stimulus money to help 400 other families living in motels around Boston find permanent housing. Just moving Vega and her daughter out of the hotel and into an apartment will save the state $2,700 a month.  And it will save Vega a lot of headaches with her restless toddler.

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  • Denise Delory

    I thought the stimulus money was to help get people back to work & off the government! I am struggling, too & would LOVE to get $1,000 a month!!! I was a single mother with 2 children & never asked for any help from the state or government! Because of my taxes being so outrageous to help all these people that don’t work I can’t live!!!! It’s about time the government helped the working SLOB!!!

  • mary

    I’m a very left-leaning democrat, but there’s something slightly exploitive about this article. Especially the picture of the child in the drawer. As the caption makes clear, the child was simply making a bed for her stuffed animals in the drawer, as children living in McMansions are just as likely to do. The impression the journalist wanted to make was that the child was actually sleeping in the drawer. I’m all for Obama’s money going to those who need help, but not at the expense of exploiting innocent children.

  • candice

    ok i think u two are missing the point all she asked for was help getting out of an abusive relationship and thats what they did they helped her get out and to keep her out they are helping her pay her rent so that she doesnt have to return to that life style i too am a single mother of 2 ages 6 and 3 and i also need help but i rather see it go to families like this who need it more then me i dont have a good job and make minimum wage but i am glad they are helping her raise her daughter better and so that this way she can be with her daughter more htne to have to work 4 jobs

  • B Anderson

    I agree with Denise. Stories like these have the reverse effect on me. That is, they make me resent the stim bill even more than I did before. Why must BUR and NPR always choose such pathetic, horrific examples to support your case that more social programs are good? I raised three kids on my own too (while waiting tables and several other low skill, low wage jobs and also earning a degree), yet always managed to pay market rent (yes, the apts were small, no-frills, we shared bedrooms and didn’t have much in the way of luxury items) but we got by OK and my kids are all the better for it today.
    I don’t buy the argument about escaping abusive relationships and will bet anything that two years from now, this person is still living on public assistance. Give the $1K a month to someone who is running a business and actually creating jobs. I’d feel really great if they gave to animal shelters and rescue efforts, in fact! That’s where the true suffering in this country lies. Living in hotel on other people’s income does not a hardship make, wake up!

  • er

    How about helping those of us who have worked and contributed to society and raised families and have fell upon tough times. I been waiting for clean,safe,descent housing for several years. Have been discriminated against in many ways, fundamentally dishonest to and simply put have had my integrity and self confidence trampled upon. I have seen many illegal immigrants receive housing assitance as well as other assistance as well as given furniture,clothing,in-kind donations to purchase new items. I am a born American who has been suffering ever since being homeless and am still suffering on a daily basis. My stomach is in knots, my nerves are shot and my head is pounding 24 hours a day. I have never seen an Asain, Muslim, Mexican or any other person of ethnic group other than the caucasian male in homlesss shelters. I can’t even be given the opportunity to apply for housing asistance in the ways that other groups are afforded. Who’s controling this system? And why are there no people of other ethnic groups in the food bank lines or eating at church served meals? Can someone please explain this to me? I would like to know. God Bless America

  • catherine scannapieco

    hi, i am a highschool student and am doing a community service project. i would love to know if it would be helpful or appreciated if we could help these kids and families in any ways. i am really looking for people in need and i would like to come see them and askl what the kids would like..need…ect. thanks

  • somebody

    I juat want to say this story is horribly false as I know the little girl in the drawer and she’s wearing the shoes i gave her. Her mother didnt work at all and lives off her fatehrs child support. the father os NOT abusive and actually this girl never has her child. annyeliz is always at her grandmothers house, on the fatehrs side.

  • hello

    i think you guys should give her some slack if i was her i will also have problems with a 2 year old child ; and who ever said she always stays in her grandmothers house is very rude because annyeliz is her family as well and if the mother works shes not going to leave the baby by her self nor leave her alone in the house , janneliz if you are reading this right now ; i would also help you if i ever get to see you :)

  • http://www.xn--arbeta-hemifrn-xib.com Arbeta hemifrån

    Having a work is cruciall for your health and stability, every human needs that stimulation so I totally agree with your article.

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