Cynthia Kirby shares her moving story about the transforming power of affordable housing and how advocacy makes a difference

3 Oct

a cynthia kirbyMy name is Cynthia Kirby, I am 49 years old, a wife, and a mother to my amazingly strong 19-year-old daughter.

I was placed on permanent disability at age 28 and  went from making 60K a year to less than $1000 per month.

The strain of my disability ended my first marriage. My parents provided some support until I wound up in an abusive relationship that brought  with it criminal elements  and crystal meth.

I spent the next decade in and out of homelessness, struggling with my addiction and domestic violence. I slept in my car, stayed in abandoned houses, or moved from motel to motel. The night I turned 40 I spent in a grocery store parking lot, afraid to fall asleep.

I had just met my current husband, relapsed after 8 years in recovery. I’d also been in recovery, but I had struggled with the program’s spiritual emphasis. I was curious about how he’d come to believe and he shared the Word of God with me.

But life seemed hopeless, so I leveled an ultimatum at whatever  higher power might exist: It had one year to convince me to continue living.

In that year, even though my mom died, my husband was incarcerated, and I waited for him desperately alone on the streets of Pasadena, God wooed me, building the foundation of my relationship with Him. At the one-year mark, my husband was released from jail and I took it as a sign that God listened.

We wanted to get married and find housing, but we had few options on disability income. God used connections we had made on

the street and in recovery to help us achieve stability. My husband was accepted into Union Station Homeless Services’ adult center. Three months later, we were married and I was invited into the program. We received a housing voucher, which included permanent supportive services—people helping us  to rebuild our lives— though it took nearly a year to find an apartment because of the affordable housing crisis.

Today, I’m a member of Union Station’s Lived Experience Advisory Panel, work part-time at my church, First Baptist Church Pasadena, and am the director of our children’s choir. I have more than 8 years of sobriety, am a student at PCC and have nearly a 4.0 GPA! Gratitude for a life I never thought I would have and my amazingly intimate relationship with  God carry me.

When I heard about Jill Shook and her work in Pasadena, I attended a Housing Justice workshop, became a member of  Making Housing and Community Happen, and served as their liaison with my church. It has been a blessing to advocate for permanent housing solutions, to be a part of direct democracy, to realize that my voice is powerful.Working with Jill, I’ve been to City Counsel Meetings, had one-on-one meetings with Councilmembers, spoken with the Mayor—and who am I? Can I do this? I’m a citizen. and a community member, and my voice matters.The advocacy, prayer vigils and sleep-outs by Heritage Square led to its approval, and now it’s being built; the work they do works.

Everyone should support MHCH’s pioneering work to equip faith communities to  be the church, be the hands that feed. Please, join us in building a better community.

To hear her story on Youtube, click here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bj0q5cUD51E 

[With thanks to Peter Havholm, who interviewed Cynthia Kirby and helped her to shape her story. Thanks also to Morgan Tucker, who produced this video.]

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