Antoinette Barroso has been working on a 1,500-piece jigsaw puzzle for the past two weeks. So far, she has just the edges of the puzzle complete.
“It’s going to be a field of flowers. Pretty, isn’t it?” she asks.
Barroso spends much of her day doing puzzles to keep her mind off her other issues.
Barroso, 48, is a developmentally disabled single mother who is raising her 12-year-old daughter Jasmine in a Cutler Bay condo. The pair also take cares of Bella, a 3-year-old mixed breed dog.
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Last spring, the condo’s air conditioner stopped working when the air handler broke. Barroso doesn’t have the $3,000 to replace the handler.
“It was very hard living here during the summer,” Barroso said. She would leave her sweltering two-bedroom, two-bath unit and spend afternoons with a neighbor who has a working air conditioner. But she would always come back to sleep in her unit with her daughter.
Although it’s not quite as hot now, she cools her condo by keeping the front door open for as long as possible, running two ceiling fans and a standing oscillating fan at full speed. Still, it’s not enough to keep visitors from perspiring.
Barroso has been living on her own since her own mother died when Barroso was 19. Her father had died years earlier. She bought the condo unit in 1999, using money from the sale of her deceased mother’s home. The condo is paid in full and she only pays a monthly maintenance fee.
But the condo — built in 1974 — is old and, in addition to the broken A/C unit, needs repairs. A bathroom sink leaks and the cabinet holding it fell apart last year. Kitchen cabinets are misaligned.
Worse, several months ago, a leaky bathroom fixture from an upstairs neighbor caused water to drip into Barroso’s unit, damaging walls and soaking her floor. A neighbor helped her clean and dry the condo and repaint the walls.
“I used the fans to dry the walls and floor, but I’m still worried about the mold,” she said.
Barroso has been a participant in United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) of Miami’s supported living program for more than five years. The program enables adults with developmental or physical disabilities to live in their own homes or apartments. The organization supports Barroso and others like her with money management, medical and other issues that may arise.
Armine Ballew, a supported living and employment coach with UCP, spends about four hours a week with Barroso. She helps pay her bills and takes her grocery shopping. She has attempted to find someone to fix Barroso’s air conditioner by reaching out to various local agencies.
“I had one estimate and the repair would cost her $3,000,” Ballew said. “She can’t afford that.”
Barroso’s income is limited to Social Security benefits and a small income from selling Avon products, mostly to neighbors and friends.
Barroso has a brother but he is not involved in their life. Her daughter’s father provides some child support, but it is not enough.
The tough economy doesn’t help. Ballew said many agencies have cut back because the state has reduced funding to the agencies. She fears Barroso and her daughter may need to move out of the condo if they can’t find someone to repair or replace the air conditioner and make the other necessary repairs.
“I don’t know where I can go,” Barroso said.
When not selling Avon, Barroso passes her time taking care of her daughter or working on puzzles.
“I know I would sleep better if I had a new air conditioner,” Barroso said.