Housing Advocates Want Connecticut To Address Shortage For Low-Income Earners In Fairfield County

Dione Dwyer in front of her home on Aug. 30, 2021. Dwyer, a single mother, has lived in affordable housing in Bridgeport for 19 years. She is the system change fellow at the P.T. Barnum complex. Prior to finding affordable housing, Dwyer was jumping between staying with relatives while trying to maintain stability in her children’s lives. (Allison Minto/Connecticut Public)

Dione Dwyer lives in Bridgeport, Conn.’s largest public housing complex, P.T. Barnum Apartments. She remembers moving in 19 years ago and just being thankful for something to call her own.

At the time, she was a single mother to two young daughters and had no stable income. She had been living with her father, a real estate investor, and was tired of moving around.

“I found out about public housing through a friend. When she told me about it I had no idea where to find it, to be honest,” said Dwyer, 44.

She applied and was approved in a few weeks, she said. And the first apartment she was offered, she took.

“I thought it would be a good place to start getting back on my feet, something to level me out so I could provide for my kids,” Dwyer said.

Her rent was based on 30% of her gross income. But over time, Dwyer came to realize that her three-bedroom apartment for her family wasn’t that great of a deal.

She lives just a short walk from an asphalt plant, a recycling plant and a garbage disposal plant. The complex, built in the late 1900s, is not a comfortable living arrangement, Dwyer said. She said there are problems with maintenance, conflicts among residents and a lack of the kind of support she thinks would help her family. Still, she’s been there 19 years, and she says finding anything remotely affordable in Fairfield County is hard.

“It might have saved me as far as not being homeless, but at the same time I’m stuck here. I can’t get out,” Dwyer said.

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