Once stuck in an unlivable situation, Kansas City mom given keys to an apartment her family can call home

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Lakendra Johnson was near tears.

The mother of four was being shown a new apartment that her and her family can call home.

"Oh I'm so excited," she said with tears in her eyes as she picked up a pillow off what is to be her daughter's bed.

"It's got Cinderella," she said laughing.

Her show on this day is a far cry from just a few weeks ago. That's when FOX 4 Problem Solvers first met Lakendra. Her family was one of three stuck inside a dilapidated house on Jackson Avenue. The house was owned by a church and was supposed to be transitional housing for the homeless, but the walls were full of holes, the sockets were exposed and live wires were dangling from the ceiling. The nine children living there had to sleep on the floor.

"I'm grateful for being out of my situation, but I'm back in another situation and this time I'm being robbed," said Lakendra who told us the three families were paying the church $1,400 a month to live there.

Shortly after we visited, a Kansas City codes inspector found 28 violations.

Once the story on that troubled house aired, FOX 4 Problem Solvers heard from people across the metro wanting to help the families. But the best offer came from Community LINC. It's a Kansas City program that for 28 years has helped homeless families get a fresh start. The only qualification is that families must have a child under the age of 18, said spokeswoman Teresa McClain.

Community LINC has offered both Lakendra and another mom and her children living in the same home fully furnished apartments of their own. They can stay in Community LINC housing for more than a year while they work to get back on their feet financially.

"Most of the families we work with they make about $10 an hour and fair market rent in Kansas City is about $900," McClain said. "So what that means is it will take two full weeks of their pay to afford fair market rent, and if you have childcare and food and car insurance it's very easy to be vulnerable in that situation."

McClain said five years of data shows that Community LINC, which provides housing to 150 families every year, has an 82 percent success rate getting families permanently off of welfare and back into a stable environment.

McClain credits that accomplishment to a full array of services, which include teaching families how to budget their money and help them locate low-cost childcare. In return for free housing, the families agree to save half of their income and use it to pay off penalties from utility companies or judgments from old landlords, which have been barriers to finding a place to live.

FOX 4 Problem Solvers watched as Lakendra saw her new home for the very first time. She marveled at the dining room table and the well-stocked kitchen, including pots and pans.

"I'm grateful," she said crying. "Words can't express it."

A Community LINC employee gave her hug as she handed her the key. To donate to Community LINC, click on this link.