Hailing from Haiti, Ermance Cyriaque has been in the United States for two decades, and her hard work as a shelf stocker at Walmart paid off as she recently moved into a house of her own in New London, Conn.
Hope Inc. (Housing Opportunities for People), a nonprofit that provides affordable housing for working-class people in Connecticut’s southern Middlesex County, purchased and renovated the home, then sold it to Cyriaque at a below-market price. The Hope Inc. program is geared toward low-income people that are well-equipped to stay in their homes, and Cyriaque was chosen because of her excellent credit.
New London’s neighborhood stabilization program contributed $34,000 so that HOPE could purchase the home. The organization has renovated 13 homes on the street where Cyriaque will live, and the houses will remain permanently affordable — even if their original owners sell them.
Cyriaque has been living with her daughter Annesylly and her nine-month-old grandson Zorienn Canuto in a three-bedroom apartment, struggling to make ends meet in a community where prices were outgrowing her retail wages. To qualify for the program, she had to earn no more than half the median annual income in the area for a family of two: $33,850. Annesylly, who also qualifies for the program, will rent the apartment attached to her mother’s house.
When the family saw their new home for the first time, the Ninigret Quilters Guild presented Cyriaque with a hand-pieced quilt to make it cozy. (The Rhode Island quilters frequently donate their handiwork to needy families in the area.) According to Lee Howard of The Day, Kate Lamoureux, one of the quilters, tells Zorienn, “I hope it becomes your favorite blankie.”
Meanwhile, Ermance Cyriaque had a gift of her own to give. She gave Marilyn Graham, the Executive Director of HOPE, a painting with the words Do What You Love. “You went over and beyond to take care of us and help us out,” Annesylly says of Graham.
Of Howard, Graham says, “Theirs is a nice American dream story.”
And it comes wrapped in a warm, new quilt.