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The thought of being a homeowner before the age of 40 seemed like a distant dream for new Habitat homeowner, Antonia. Antonia and her daughter began their housing journey as beneficiaries in the HUD tenant-based assistance program facing frequent challenges of unforeseen evictions and fluctuating rent prices until Antonia was introduced to the idea of applying for the homeownership program. Her dream would soon become a reality when her normal shift in the ICU was happily interrupted with the news that she was going to to be a Habitat homeowner and would later move into one of the Amala Way houses on Bennett Street. Despite challenges from the pandemic delaying the pace of construction, Antonia never lost hope. She would frequently drive by and visit the property while eagerly awaiting the exciting day she could show her 16-year-old daughter their new forever home. On September 30, 2021, Antonia and three other homeowners celebrated their dreams becoming a reality and received the keys to their brand new homes.
Griselda and her two sons have never had a stable place to call home. Constantly moving between the homes of family and friends to an apartment with her sons and a roommate, Griselda turned towards HabitatNCC with her aunt’s recommendation.
Upon being accepted into the homeownership program, she burst into tears to be able to better provide for her children. Griselda is currently working towards providing that 3 bedroom home with a backyard where she can “build memories and form stronger family bonds“.
Originally from Jersey City, Diane came to Delaware about 15 years ago. Leaving the place she once called home led to some trying times. Between frequent moves and even facing homelessness, Diane found a light at the end of the tunnel when she was introduced to Habitat and was accepted into the homeownership program on her first try. However, she began to doubt and worry if her pregnancy would affect her time needed for her sweat equity hours and financial literacy classes. Diane remained faithful and was able to complete her hours (with the help of her now ex-husband’s commitment to the physical work). As she looks back on the last 13 years in her home, Diane attributes this blessing to both Habitat NCC and her faith. She believes this home not only tells her children they will never be homeless, but that it gave her something to fight for and fueled her fire.
Always finding a way to put others before herself, Sekea has a passion for giving back to her community. She first heard about Habitat through a volunteer opportunity as a high school student and this led to a heart for serving more with Habitat and also with Autism Delaware. As she continued to grow in her service as a volunteer, Sekea started thinking about homeownership but struggled with the idea that she could be a Habitat homeowner. Despite her doubts, she chose to step out of her comfort zone, act on faith, and apply for the homeownership program. In November 2020, Sekea received the news that she would be the final homeowner moving into the Grace Point II project in Middletown. While this opportunity is the stepping stone that she needed to continue to pursue her goals, she intends to pay it forward by helping others find their stepping stone on the path to their dreams.
Azaria has wanted nothing more than a stable homelife for her, her partner, and their four children. That dream of stability seemed far away when within days her partner lost his job, they received an eviction notice on their home, and their car caught on fire while taking one of their four sons to daycare. Despite moving in with family and then moving into a two-bedroom apartment, Azaria and her family never lost hope of their dream for stability. Shortly after hearing about a family member’s experience with Habitat, Azaria was quickly encouraged to apply despite feelings of doubt regarding her financial situation and potential to be a homeowner. Much to her surprise, Azaria received a call in January 2021 announcing that she was going to be a homeowner and would finally get the opportunity to bring her family around the dinner table to enjoy a homecooked meal. Habitat NCC, Azaria, and her family celebrated that day in June 2021 when she received the keys to their forever home.
Lucinda is no stranger to the Eastside of Wilmington and her journey as a Habitat homeowner will bring her and her nephews back to her childhood neighborhood. Family has always been an important constant in Lucinda’s life especially her relationship with her grandmother. However, despite that importance, they were not always a close proximity when Lucinda physically needed them. Prior to applying to Habitat, Lucinda found normalcy in sleeping in her car until she found a small apartment for her and her sister’s family. As the small apartment seemed to grow smaller, Lucinda was encouraged to apply for Habitat alongside one of her best friends. The news of being accepted into the homeownership program came on a bittersweet day in December 2019. Lucinda was beyond excited that her dream of homeownership was about to come true, however the first person she would want to share the news with recently passed away. Her motivation throughout her journey towards homeownership has been both her grandmother’s support and wanting to create a more stable life for her nephews than what she experienced growing up. On September 30, 2021, Lucinda received the keys to the stable forever home that she would share with her nephews.
Nema and her teenage daughter have lived in an apartment riddled with maintenance issues ranging from pest infestations to poor water pressure which have taken a backseat to the looming fear of being “put out” for voicing grievances pertaining to these conditions. Frustrated with these issues, Nema began looking towards Habitat NCC when a close friend was approved for our homeownership program. Filled with shock and joy upon hearing the news that she was later accepted into the program, Nema described her future home as a place where her and her daughter “can finally relax and be comfortable”.
Marlise has lived in subsidized housing for nearly a decade; and, while she’s grateful for the programs that have allowed her to afford housing for her three children, there are things about living in subsidized housing that are difficult.
Marlise’s landlord can enter her apartment at any time – without notice. “It feels like a violation sometimes to go home and see – visibly – that somebody has been in your house,” she said.
As her children get older, space continues to be a challenge – in the small apartment. “My five-year-old, she’s getting bigger now – and she needs her own space. It’s like every room is her room – she has stuff in the living room in my room, in my son’s room. So it’s just like, okay, what are we going to do?”
After looking into a traditional mortgage and learning she that wouldn’t be able to qualify for a home that met her family’s needs, Marlise learned about Habitat. Marlise applied to the Habitat program a few times before being accepted – and her perseverance and determination became part of her personal growth.
“I’m grateful that there were standards because it wasn’t
just a requirement to get in, but it helped me be a better me.
It educated me about my finances about just everything.”
In December of 2019, Habitat broke ground on the Amala Way project – a 12-unit project on the Eastside of Wilmington – where Marlise’s future home is being built.
“After walking around and being able to see visually what we’ll have for us – I keep thinking about what my kids are going to think – and I think that’s what makes me cry,” Marlise said at the groundbreaking ceremony.
“My kids are going to grow up one day – they’re probably not going to live there forever – they’ll go on to do other things. Maybe they’ll travel the world, but they’ll have a home to come back to. I keep that at the forefront of my mind – like I have to do this for them. Because if, for whatever reason, they don’t have the opportunity to do this – they’ll have this.”
When they began the Habitat program, Vanessa, Jose, and their three daughters lived in a small house – one that had reoccurring issues with heating in the winter, and pests throughout the year.
“The house was cold in the winter – and we were always calling for maintenance [because] the heater didn’t work properly.”
Vanessa and Jose shared three small bedrooms and one bathroom with their three daughters – which was often difficult. They were referred to Habitat’s homeownership program by their financial coach, when they were unable to qualify for a house that would meet their growing family’s needs due to their income.
“I attended one of the Habitat meetings and I saw that, in the process of participating with Habitat, we would have the opportunity to learn how to take care of the house and do minor repairs ourselves, [while] also having an affordable mortgage payment, and a clean, safe house where our daughters will have enough room to grow.”
Vanessa, Jose, and their daughters celebrated the dedication of their Habitat home on July 14, 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, which shed an even greater light on the need for everyone to have a safe and healthy home.
At their home’s dedication, Vanessa shared, through tears, how blessed she and her family felt to have this opportunity – and how much it meant to, finally, after a long journey, have a place for her family to call home.
During her five years in the Habitat program, patiently and excitedly awaiting the completion of her new home in Middletown, Ashley and her children have lived with her parents in a two-bedroom apartment, where they shared one bedroom.
On August 7, 2020, at the dedication celebration for her new Habitat home, Ashley’s excitement for moving into her new home was palpable.
“I want to be able to give my kids something I never had – a home to grow up in and not struggle to maintain my home and to provide for my family.”
Ashley’s perseverance and dedication through the Habitat program are two values that inspired Habitat staff and volunteers alike.
Noreen Poole, Vice President of Habitat’s Board of Directors, said of Ashley’s steadfastness, “through all of the trials and tribulations in life, this just goes to show you that, if you hang in there, God will make a way.”
During her time in the Habitat program, Ashley also worked her way through nursing school; and, shortly before the dedication of her Habitat home, she celebrated her graduation as a Licensed Practical Nurse.
For Ashley, homeownership has always been a dream – one she has longed for since childhood. “I knew Habitat was the way to give my family a better life,” she said.
“Everything is coming together,” Ashley said, “and now – I can give my kids something I never had.”
“My story begins with my trust being taken advantage of by someone who did not complete the repairs I paid for. Hurt and heartbroken do not describe how I felt. I lived without a kitchen for a year. Cooking with no sink in a kitchen that [was torn] up. It was the worst year of my life.
…I felt as if my dream of staying in my home had turned into a nightmare. But, this changed when I met Ruby and Kevin from Habitat. They listened to my story and provided information on their A Brush With Kindness initiative, which I qualified for. Ruby and her team treated me and my home with respect.
After an assessment, they made necessary repairs to my roof and HVAC system. They also replaced my front windows and door, and installed a new storm door. I received a design package, which included an address plaque, mailbox and light fixture. I am now so proud of my home. God Bless ABWK they have renewed my faith in humanity!”
(left: Somandra in her new, functioning kitchen with the Habitat volunteers who repaired it)
Two years ago, Tiffany and her three children were living in overcrowded conditions in her mother’s home. Not long after her mother passed away, Tiffany arrived home to find a for sale sign was on the door—the house was in foreclosure. A parent at the daycare where Tiffany worked told her about Habitat. After completing her financial coaching and 225 hours of “sweat equity” with Habitat, Tiffany became the 250th Habitat Homeowner in New Castle County “Habitat’s 0% interest mortgage made homeownership a reality for me. I am beyond blessed.”