Camila is a resident of CLT’s Windsor House property, a supportive housing program located in Lawrence, MA. The following write-up was created by Nate Williams, a Tufts University junior and development and communications intern at CLT.
Camila pulls a stack of photos out of her purse, shuffling through the pile before picking out one with particularly worn edges. The photo reveals a smiling young woman, and as Camila looks at the photo, she can’t help but smile back. “Esta es mi hija,” She explains. “This is my daughter.” As she flips through the next few photos, however, her smile slips away. She lingers on the last photograph. “Here she is after she was diagnosed with cancer,” she says, and carefully returns the photos to her bag.
Originally from Puerto Rico, Camila has been a resident of CLT’s Lawrence property for over a year. To say that Camila has had a life full of challenges would be an understatement. She married a man who turned abusive, routinely harming her physically. In addition to the physical abuse, her husband’s extramarital affairs left Camila with a diagnosis that shattered her life as she knew it— HIV/AIDS. This development, coupled with the constant abuse from her husband, led Camila to leave Puerto Rico and start her life over in the United States. With no support system to help her and virtually no funds of her own, Camila arrived in Florida. From that point on, she lived in various homeless shelters, struggling to maintain her health and eventually sinking into serious depression. This depression eventually culminated in a number of suicide attempts. Finally, a social service worker recommended that Camila apply for housing at CLT, and she eventually signed the lease for her own room in Windsor House.
While Commonwealth Land Trust cannot undo the past, living at the Windsor House has allowed Camila to look towards the future with more hope. With a stable place to stay and the aid of the on-site case management staff, Camila’s health —both physically and psychologically— has greatly improved. “If I have documents that I need help with or anything else,” Camila explains. “The staff here always help me out by talking with the doctors or translating for me.” Yet the relationship is not a one-way street. While Camila’s children are many miles away, her desire to care for those around her extends to the residents and staff of Windsor House. “She’s so friendly and so sociable,” attests a staff member of Windsor House. “She loves bringing gifts and goodies for people. She just always brings a smile.”
It is her caring nature, this desire to make others happy, that keeps Camila focused on the road ahead. Every day, she talks with her daughter, offering words of comfort as the cancer progresses. Camila looks forward to the day when she can reunite with her children, but until that time, she knows that Commonwealth Land Trust will continue to offer her the support she needs until she can become entirely independant.
“It’s difficult, every day,” she says, once more looking at the photograph of her daughter. “But I am safe here.”