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.
Jamie’s apartment had cigarette burns covering the carpet and all the counters. When things broke, her landlord didn’t bother to fix them and she feared using the dryer for laundry, expecting it to eventually catch fire. She stayed in this apartment for several months with her two daughters, Miranda and Victoria, before moving in with her mom to cut back on expenses. “When we lived with my mom, we ate really good, and I paid off a lot of bills, I got myself out of debt…But it was stressful.”
Jamie’s mother owned a two-bedroom, one bathroom home that already housed Jamie’s disabled, eldest son Brandon, when the three of them moved in. Jamie and her daughters shared a trundle bed in the living room but occasionally tensions between Jamie and her mother would run so high that Jamie would check into a women’s shelter for the night. She knew she needed other options and ended up relying on Habitat for Humanity for the stability she wanted to provide for her family.
She also looked into low-income housing in Issaquah but ultimately put her faith in Habitat despite being wait-listed for a 3-bedroom apartment in Issaquah before completing her Habitat application. “I don’t think I had a ‘plan C,” Jamie told us. A month later, she was selected to participate in the Habitat homeownership program.
She still remembers enjoying the construction staff and AmeriCorps as well as sharing the information she learned in her education classes with family and friends. She learned that she preferred the dirty work of construction to working with power tools or doing work on ladders. She also remembers the frustrating days. “I wanted to be done. I wanted to be in my house…I just wanted to be out of my mom’s. I just wanted my own spot.” Throughout the process, she felt very supported by her family and the community though. Her mother watched Miranda and Victoria every Saturday while Jamie finished her sweat equity hours. “She’s a lot of the reason that I chose to be out here… We were living with her when we applied, so I knew [the kids] wouldn’t have to change schools and that kind of thing, so that was really important. We moved around a lot when I was a kid, and when my older two kids were little they changed schools a lot. [Victoria]’s been in the same school since kindergarten. So that means a lot to me.”
Additionally, living and working with her neighbors has challenged Jamie’s expectations on what to expect from her community. “I thought it was going to be all of this, warm and fuzzy, ‘we all went through the same experience’ thing, but we didn’t! We all have such different experiences of how we came to be here. And I like that! I like the diversity of it.”
Since Jamie moved into her home in 2010, she made several adjustments in her career and lifestyle but has not had to worry about where her family will live next. She works at a timeshare company as a Customer Service Supervisor and has seen the change in how she thinks about money and how her children develop relationships. “I think I was kind of in shock, that I owned a house. I’ve never had that big ‘American Dream’ that I’d own a house. But I always wanted my kids to have roots… I pay about what I used to, but it’s… it’s permanent. It’s really changed my perspective on life in general…It has changed the way I look at myself, and the way I value myself… it’s changed the way I look at the example I set for my kids, my value and myself, money, I look at money differently. I used to just think ‘oh, I can go out to dinner, I can get more money. I can make more money.’ But now, I want to save… it’s changed the way I look at [my children’s] futures, and the possibilities of all of us having a better life.”
In an effort to act out this mentality, Jamie recently bought a car and made learning how to drive a goal for the whole family. “I’ve never driven, ever, and I knew when I moved out here that I was going to have to…” She committed herself to the idea after her mother had to battle cancer. “She’s in remission, but it occurred to me that I have a grown disabled son, and a grown disabled brother, and my mom does a lot for them, and truthfully for me. So it occurred to me, that it was time to get a car and be able to run errands for the boys, and get my own groceries, which, right now I order my groceries. But if there’s an emergency… those sorts of things. It’s time to get a car. So I did, and now I have to learn how to drive it.”
She hopes this decision will help Miranda move into the next phase of her life as well. She previously dropped out of high school but pursued a high school program through Bellevue College. Relying on the bus system presented an overwhelming obstacle but with the new car available, Miranda plans to finish her classes so she can attend beauty school and pursue her dreams of doing make-up for Broadway shows in New York.
At the moment, Jamie is content with her family’s progress. “I just think that [my kids are] going to know that they can do whatever they want; they can succeed at things, that they have opportunities… Do they know they can go to college if they want to? Yeah”