When the doctors told Sylvia* her newborn daughter Maya wasn’t responding well to several tests, she didn’t panic. She set her mind to do whatever her baby would need.

She organized her work schedule around appointments with doctors, therapists and specialists. Then, disaster struck their home in Puerto Rico. Hurricane Maria washed out the only road to the hospital. Sylvia’s home was without power for the next 10 months.

When she couldn’t wait anymore, she moved to New Hampshire, where her mother-in-law Clara and an aunt already live.

“I didn’t want to leave the only home I had ever known. I came because I was forced by the hurricane; to take care of my child, I had to take her here.”

Sylvia moved in with Clara and Clara’s sister, an arrangement they all knew had to be short-term. The women’s lease restricted visitors to just a few weeks, and if Sylvia and the baby stayed longer, all four of them could become homeless.

But almost immediately, the property owner where she applied for an apartment threw unreasonable hurdles in Sylvia’s path.

“All of my documents were up to date, and my background is clear. They tried to say documents were missing, but there was nothing missing,” she said.

She connected with NHLA, where Fair Housing Project Director Maria Eveleth investigated and found evidence of discrimination against Sylvia because she is from Puerto Rico and spoke limited English. With just a few letters from Eveleth explaining the Fair Housing Act, the property manager removed the unreasonable hurdles and Sylvia secured an apartment of her own.

Sylvia is now working on a maintenance crew at a community college, quickly learning English, and taking Maya to her therapy appointments.

“She’s the reason I am here. Everything I have done is for her. The only help I needed was this, to make it fair.”


*Not client’s real name.

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