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.
Penelope was a single mom raising her 9-year-old son with the help of her family in Mexico when she met her first husband. He was the reason she ended up in the Seattle area but even after they divorced, she stayed. Despite lacking the support she had in Mexico, Luis had grown accustomed to the states and was adamant about staying. “He is totally American. I mean, he even prefers English to Spanish… No, he’s an American… This is very much his home.”
Penelope ended up renting a small mobile home in the backyard of another family’s home. The insulation was horrible and she was still paying over 60% of her income. She turned to her church for support, putting in prayer requests for an affordable place to live. It was at this same church that she saw a Habitat for Humanity presentation. “I was thinking that I can’t qualify, I can’t even apply… I had become kind of skeptical in this crazy world.” She didn’t have any other leads on stable housing though so she applied and was ushered through the process, growing more hopeful as she moved through the qualifying phases. “I knew it was a long shot… It was not a fact that I would get a house. But…just the fact that there was hope? It was really encouraging and motivating.”
After qualifying for the program, Penelope grew very close with Habitat to the point of considering them family. She was particularly moved by the generosity of the volunteers. “I wanted, desperately, to finish my hours as soon as possible. It was really bad weather, bad, bad in the winter. Rain, and cold, and the wind, it was amazing that people volunteered! I was there because I needed the house, but volunteers? In pouring rain, cold, I mean really, it was horrible. For them to show up, it was amazing to see the goodwill of others.” Penelope also felt supported by her church congregation and job, who allowed her to be flexible with her schedule to accommodate the required sweat equity hours. With all of her family still in Mexico, the support she received throughout the partnering process gave her home even more importance to her. “Being a single mom in a country where I don’t have family… when you are by yourself with a son, not married, you are easily… vulnerable… Because of my house, I am very confident… I am protected.”
Along with the protection her home affords her, Penelope hopes that it will help alleviate some of the pressure her son may feel to take care of her as he gets older. She plans on holding onto her Habitat home for the long haul and believes that Habitat will always be her community because of its longevity. “A house is something that’s with you for the rest of your life and that’s huge… It’s really something. When you help in any other area, you’re helping a lot, but it won’t last as much. But if you help habitat, and you help others to own a home, you’re helping them without even being there!”