Walking into the home of Alfredo and Bridgette Gonzalez, you can’t help but feel the love that has gone into maintaining and beautifying their home. Built in 1896, the two story A-frame has seen multiple owners but is now occupied by the Gonzalez family who bought their Westside home in 2007 and began to establish themselves as a family committed to the preservation of the neighborhood’s unique character.
Bridgette’s grandmother was among those who worked at Westside Housing in its infancy. She is a life-long advocate for the Westside neighborhood and worked, along with others, to mitigate the negative impacts of the highway cutting through the neighborhood. Multiple generations of Bridgette’s family lived in the Westside and both Bridgette and Alfredo were raised there.
But it was not without obstacles that they determined to ensure the long-term function and beauty of their historic home. In 2010, the family was without heat. Having just had her second child, the family was temporarily displaced from their home. With few options, the Gonzalez family turned to Westside Housing and its Home Repair Program. The program enabled the family to replace an antiquated heating system that long past its usable life. Thrilled to be able to return to the home they loved they continued to enhance and repair the home as their time and financed allowed. Progress was slow but consistent and the house was becoming a home when Alfredo was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). This impacted the family’s ability to continue their home improvement and, though Alfredo underwent treatment for MS, he sometimes experienced relapses that rendered him unable to work on the house. Alfredo worried about how critical repairs were going to be made if he was unable to work. Bridgette recalled, “we poured our lives into it until we couldn’t anymore.”
The couple again turned to Westside Housing and its Home Repair Program. The house had rotting siding, a shifting foundation, and leaks. Through the home repair program, the gutters were replaced, new facia was added, as well as extended new soffits. The couple reported it took 43 tubes of caulk to make the necessary repairs. Construction in the home can be a very stressful process but the Gonzalez’s reported that excellent construction workers and oversight by Westside Housing made for a “flawless” experience. They report that the contractor took “extreme care” and had a “keen understanding of old structures.” Further, the couple made key decisions about how the work would be performed. They felt heard and that their input was prioritized throughout the project. Alfredo shared his appreciation for the process: “it’s very hard to be on disability and not be able to do what you want to do. Every day, I was a part of the process and asked for my approval. It made me feel like I was still in it.”
With their home refreshed and renewed, the Gonzalez family were inspired to continue on in their quest to maintain the tradition and strong sense of community that is characteristic of the Westside. There have been times when they considered moving. Bridgette recalled finding gun casings next to “my baby’s swing” and the “what ifs started after that.” Recalling that moment, Bridgette said, “the inside of you wants to run away but you also want to stay.” Trying to form a more cohesive and supportive neighborhood, the family remained committed to the Westside. There have also been times when homes like theirs “were viewed as the raggedy houses, just tear them down.” Unwilling to succumb to that mentality, the couple vowed, “support is just so vital. The support from this Westside Housing grant made us sure. We’re not alone, we can do this.”
The Gonzalez’s have collected KC Tax Abatement photos of their home and their block to create the foundation for a stronger community. Their hope is to compile as much information as possible and have historical meetings with friends and neighbors to share and preserve the Westside’s history. Alfredo and Bridgette shared that their hope for their community is that, “we can live cohesively. We’ll be seen and respected. The city would treasure us.”