For Brandiss Pearson-McIntyre, public housing provided opportunity.
She was 20 when she gave birth to her second son, who had Down syndrome.
“Three days after he was born we got word that he had Down syndrome,” she recalls. “When I delivered he had complications. He couldn’t eat, I couldn’t hold him, it was hard.”
Brandiss, now 33, said she needed to leave her job at Interfaith Works to take care of her disabled son, Brandon. Two years earlier she had dropped out of college at the University of Buffalo to raise her first son, Shaun.
“I had two kids, no job, and I was just lost,” Brandiss said.
That’s when she decided to move into Syracuse Public Housing.
“No one in my family had ever lived in Syracuse housing. No matter how bad things got, they never had to go there. There were always other options, but for me that was my only option. My son was sick. I couldn’t work. We had to go there,” Brandiss said.
The family of three lived in Syracuse Public Housing for nine years while Brandiss pursued multiple college degrees.
“We made the best out of that opportunity, though, and I really see it as an opportunity. Through Syracuse Housing I was able to go to Syracuse Educational Opportunity Center and become a certified nurse’s assistant, and from there I went on to Central Tech to become a licensed practical nurse,” Brandiss said.
Even more, she received a full-four-year scholarship to Syracuse University through Syracuse Public Housing.
“I applied and I received the scholarship so I pursued my social work degree at Syracuse University,” Brandiss said.
Brandiss said her time in Syracuse Housing was very family-oriented.
“We would all just hang out on the porch and talk and laugh with our children. It was very safe and clean. I think a lot of people don’t realize that,” Brandiss said.
Brandiss says she loved the sense of community she felt living in Syracuse Public Housing.
“We all really cared about each other. There were other single moms there and we all felt like family,” Brandiss said.
Oldest son Shaun said he made a lot of friends with his neighbors in Syracuse Public Housing.
“We would play ball after school and it was a lot of fun,” Shaun said.
After moving out of Syracuse Public Housing, Brandiss moved into an apartment through Housing Visions.
“Then I see this hole, they were digging a hole up the block from my apartment and I just wanted to know what was up with that. They told me they were building a home through Home Headquarters and to give them a call. That hole became my home,” Brandiss said.
“My happiest memory with my mom was moving into this house, she just worked so hard to get the family here. I was just so proud of her,” Shaun said.
By the time the family moved in, Brandiss was seriously dating Ronnie McIntyre, who was working at St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center with Brandiss.
Ronnie said owning this home with Brandiss was a dream come true for him.
“Just having something you own with someone you want to spend your life with, you know, making your house a home with someone you love is wonderful,” Ronnie said.
The couple married on Labor Day 2014.
“So my kids have the house that I promised, the family that I always wanted for them and I do pretty well and Syracuse has been pretty good to me. A lot of people say there’s nothing here, but it’s here if you look for it and if you work for it,” Brandiss said.
Q&A with Stephanie Schuster
Brandiss Pearson-McIntyre got her house through Home HeadQuarters. Find out more about what this nonprofit does from the perspective of Stephanie Schuster, a community development consultant.
Home HeadQuarters is a nonprofit community development agency.
We have our lending line of business, where we find affordable housing for low-income homebuyers, (and also help) people who are either looking for affordable housing or repairs to their home. We also do community development.
We have properties that are unique. For example, right now we are working with the Syracuse Land Bank (which acquires tax-delinquent properties). We also build new homes. Those homes are predominately sold to low- to middle-income homebuyers.
There is also an abundance of older homes from the 1850s in Syracuse, and we provide repairs for those homes. We also do financial capability programs and help people avoid foreclosure.
We get a wide variety of funding from state and federal sources. We work through the state affordable housing federation. We also get funding from CDBG, which is Syracuse’s community development block grant, and they get that (money) from Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Through the homebuyer education center, on average we serve about 1,200 to 1,500 people a year.
For help, call Home HeadQuarters at (315) 474-1939.