Drugs, a nearby murder, and mold the management refused to address: these are some of the complaints about my apartment I made to a friend before she said, “Why don’t you buy a house?” I laughed: “Houses are expensive!”
I’d never really given much thought to owning a home. I didn’t see myself as a homeowner. I was a renter—had been my whole life. I didn’t know the first thing about mortgages or credit scores. My friend, who worked at a bank, taught me. She went over my budget with me, showed me how to better manage my money. She helped me get my finances in order to pay down debt and improve my credit score. Even so, I didn’t really expect to buy a house. I was looking for another affordable, but hopefully safer, apartment.
One day I got a call: my friend’s colleague had found an income-based mortgage program that was perfect for people like me. I didn’t even know such a thing existed. She walked me through the process of getting approved and talked to me about the importance of buying within my means and planning for the future. Other people stepped up along the way to help me through the process of buying my first home: a realtor, a house-hunting friend, a lawyer to explain the closing process (an incredibly frightening process in itself!). Before I knew it, I was standing in my own house, proud of reaching this milestone.
But I didn’t do it alone. I’m a firm believer that no one does. And I’m not just talking about home buying. I’m talking about life. We don’t do it alone. We don’t succeed alone. We will all have times in life when we want to change our circumstances, but need a helping hand to do so.
That’s something Habitat for Humanity understands too. It’s why Habitat is about more than building homes. It’s about providing the education, experience, and support network for success. Habitat prepares families for the future by providing an intentional educational and financial preparation process. Families put in at least 200 hours of “sweat equity,” investing in their futures through the sweat of their own labor. They learn about mortgages, insurance, maintenance, safety, and more.
I watched others lose their homes in the mortgage crisis. But I didn’t. Because I’d been prepared. Habitat’s preparation pays off similarly as evidenced by a foreclosure rate at less than 0.4%. Owning my own home was more than just a milestone; it was a stepping stone to future success. I’m no longer living paycheck to paycheck, no longer living in debt. I haven’t been for a long time. I no longer worry how I’m going to pay for unexpected bills. I have money saved for emergencies. That’s more than an accomplishment. It’s freedom. It’s life-changing.
That’s the difference Habitat makes by giving people the tools to build stability, strength, and self-reliance, so they can break the cycle of generational poverty and create a better future for themselves and for their families. Ultimately, that’s how Habitat helps build stronger, more stable families and communities. And when our families thrive, our city thrives.
There are many ways to help Habitat build up our communities. Learn more about how to donate or volunteer at http://www.habitatgreenville.org, and let’s be each other’s helping hand this holiday season.