Ashley was born and raised in Baltimore City. At the beginning of our interview she harkened back to a time when in lieu of summer camp, an activity her children were enjoying at the time, she and her siblings would play in the hose on hot Baltimore summer days. She describes her parents as middle working class and her family as “typical.”
They owned their home in Belvedere Square and her parents, “did the best they could.” When Ashley was 16 she became pregnant with her first child, a little girl named Jayla. Ashley and Jayla continued to live with Ashley’s parents until she was 19 years old and ready to move out on her own. “I didn’t know how hard the real world was,” Ashley lamented. She moved into her cousin’s home in Brooklyn Homes, a Public Housing multifamily property in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Baltimore.
Eventually, Ashley and Jayla moved into their own apartment not far from Brooklyn Homes through a Rental Assistance Program. Soon after, she gave birth to her second child, Maya, and applied for Public Housing herself. After years of waiting, she got the letter to move into O’Donnell Heights. O’Donnell Heights was the cream of the crop when it comes to Baltimore Public Housing because it was nicely positioned next to the highway, but although she and her neighbors did their best to keep their homes looking nice, sometimes the management would cut the water off and in the winter she was unable to control the heating. This made things difficult for one of her daughters, who had asthma. When it came time for Jayla to head to middle school, and she would no longer be able to go to the private Christian school she had attended, Ashley knew it was time to find a new home for her family.
Ashley applied for BRHP, or MBQ at the time, in the fall of 2010; she attended her first counseling session that next summer. BRHP encourages folks to get their credit on track, pay off old debts, and save up money for moving costs before they are given their voucher. Ashley was particularly thankful for the credit advice. On the advice of MBQ, she decided to file for bankruptcy. She called this, “one of the best decisions she ever made, financially.” It gave her a clean slate. This help got her to where she needed to be in order to lease with a landlord in the county of her choosing. Her family moved into their home in Columbia in June of 2014.
Ashley and her girls loved Columbia. The walking trails and Centennial Park gave them the opportunity to spend time outside. They loved to canoe, take part in activities at the nearby library, and visit their community pool in the summers. No matter where they were, there was a park within walking distance. Her oldest daughter outgrew her asthma, a development Ashley attributes to getting out of the city. Her family grew while they were in the program as well. Ashley and her now husband had their third little girl in November of 2016.
During their time with the program Ashley’s family was able to save some of their income. This savings allowed them to buy a beautiful, ranch-style home of their own in Windsor Mill in December of 2018. She mentioned the struggle of finding the right maintenance people to fix her home when problems arise, but “it’s worth it,” she says, “it feels nice to have something to call your own.” Jayla attends Randallstown High while Ashley homeschools Maya. Ashley says she’s, “grateful for BRHP and what it offered in our time of need, when we needed a nice, safe, affordable place to live.” She always knew she could call if there was an issue with her home or she felt unsafe, “and that support is huge.” Ashley wanted us to know that this program is “wonderful,” and that it “saves lives.”