This story is a part of a series we are publishing called “Habitat Family Stories”. They’re the stories of our partner families from all walks of life in varying stages of their journey. Many of them have been in their Habitat homes for close to a decade. Get to know the families we work alongside by checking the “family story” tag.
When Krystal and Zachary applied to the Habitat for Humanity home ownership program, they were a family of five renting a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom house. It was probably under 500 square ft. and in 2015, the rent for their old house was almost twice that of their monthly mortgage payment in their Habitat home. The family dealt with constant plumbing issues and intrusive crime in the area including several occasions where they had people enter their backyard trying to escape the police. “Part of the reason we started, as I refer to it, ‘collecting dogs’ is we used to have a large dog and then a Pitbull, and they would guard our fence while the kids were in the back yard.”
Krystal’s health presented another accommodation the family was struggling to make. Due to a congenital heart defect and a migraine seizure disorder, she was frequently unable to work. “No matter how good your insurance is, one major health catastrophe can really suck the life out of any penny you have.” She also wasn’t allowed to be left alone with her children due to her health issues and the family had to pay friends to look after them, leaving them very little disposable income to change their circumstances.
Zachary’s mother encouraged them to consider a Habitat home and Krystal jumped at the opportunity. “We kind of always planned on after a certain time, buying a house, and frankly my health issues just completely destroyed that.” The interview process did become stressful when Krystal realized the demand for a habitat house but the family persevered through the process and displayed a strong willingness to partner with Habitat. After approval, Krystal fought to go back to work part-time and Zachary worked so well with the construction team that he was often put in charge on the work site. “My husband’s a really handy person in the first place. He did learn a lot about construction, working with the AmeriCorps… He had an aptitude for a lot of things.” Krystal and Zachary completed most of the partnering process by themselves and didn’t receive a family support partner until the end of the process. Even then they shared them with two other families. “My family all works, his family lives out of state, so we just kind of had to make it on our own a little bit.”
The work they put into their house is a constant source of pride for the family. “Little luxuries mean a lot when you haven’t had a lot of stuff or haven’t been able to afford those things, and you know that you’ve earned them, and that you work really hard for them. We work really hard for these houses… And there’s a lot of pride in that.” The family has been able to budget better, save up for vacations and even change their day-to-day life. “It’s going to the thrift store verses actually getting something new. And it’s going and being able to buy your school supplies. And not having to go down to the food bank… it was nice to be able to just go to the grocery store, and buy what I wanted to buy, and actually be able to buy it all… it’s nice to just be able to go grocery shopping and not have to worry as much.”
Among all the changes the their family has experienced, they’ve most notably developed some deep connections. Zachary is the Vice President of the HOA and Krystal used to serve as the secretary. When Krystal’s father died, they were given the opportunity to buy out her family and move into his house, but they didn’t want to leave their home because they feel connected to it. Krystal painted the interior of the house, Zachary maintains a garden and put down hardwood floors. “Everybody’s got art underneath this flooring. When you take the carpet out, there’s like this particleboard stuff down there. So you seal all that because you’re not putting down carpeting. And it’s white, so everyone took permanent markers—everywhere underneath here is a piece of my kids, of myself, a couple of our friends that helped with the flooring. So I have Buzzo, which is my little fly guy that I drew in that corner. My son’s got dinosaurs that he’s drawn underneath the coffee table. So there’s a part of us that’s in the house. So even if we’re gone, it will still be here.”