Keyana Lee dreamt about living in Claremont. When she lived in Pomona with her family, she would always drive up to Claremont for business.
“I manifested that I would live in Claremont,” she said.
Keyana made it happen, moving to Claremont in 2009 on an affordable housing voucher. She eventually moved into the Courier Place apartments when they first opened in 2011, where she currently lives today. She’s a single mother of six children, ages 25, 22, 19, 6, 5 and 3.
Her 22-year-old son has autism. “My life has been geared to care for him,” she said.
The Claremont community, she said, has mostly been lovely. “It hasn’t been easy, but it’s life. My older kids had a hard time adjusting.”
Sometimes the community can be difficult, especially when it comes to her son. Taking him out to enjoy the city can be a precarious task, as many people don’t understand and sometimes react negatively to her son’s condition. Oftentimes residents call the police on her son, who is nonverbal, when he is simply just enjoying life at the park or at the library.
“That part has been crazy, just people in the community thinking ‘an African-American man’ and calling the police on him,” she said. “That has been the most difficult thing to deal with.”
Keyana has also reached out for mental health help herself, getting involved in a counseling program that offered housing vouchers for people who have experienced homelessness. She jumped at the chance, and that’s what led her to Claremont.
“It was a good opportunity. I was able to get housing and just be stable,” she said.
With that stability, she could focus on familial duties while also operating her own business, Krafty Keys Treasures. She makes t-shirts, budget planners, balloons, coffee mugs and all sorts of things people need. She currently makes t-shirts and facemasks for Michael Ceraso’s city council campaign.
Keyana first met Michael over the phone, when he called her to ask what issues she cared most about in the community.
“My phone died then, and I started to say, ‘nobody wants to hear what you have to say, don’t call him back,’” she said. “But someone said call him back.”
They chatted about increasing mental health awareness in the community, and how people in town can be more comfortable around people who have autism or other conditions.
“Maybe people won’t be calling the police,” she said.
As she spoke with Michael, who has had his own familial struggles with mental illness, she was struck by how sympathetic he was.
“I just feel like he is so relatable,” she said. “It’s nice to have someone who can relate to older and younger people.”