The Fight to Stay Put: a Habitat family story

The Fight to Stay Put Habitat FS Blog graphic

Candy’s family was one of the founding families of Issaquah, having developed the neighborhood in 1887. She and her children were the fifth generation to grow up in the area. She hadn’t thought about leaving before but she struggled as a single parent supporting her children after her divorce and didn’t have a lot of other options. When she applied to Habitat for Humanity, she was a custodian working for the Issaquah school district. Since taking over ownership of her home, she’s become a supervisor and she can see the difference. “My employees can’t afford to live here, close to where they work,” she said. Trying to find housing in Issaquah was tough, especially when it came to renting.

For eight years, her family rented the attic of an old home from the 1890’s. “All of us were squished in two attic bedrooms. So yeah, it was tight, but you know, I was a single parent and that’s all I could afford… The kids were getting bigger, and it was getting tight, so there’d be fighting… It was ok when they were all little, but as they got bigger it was a little cramped.” Still, Candy only moved her family out of the attic because her landlord decided to rent the space to his daughter.

Candy ended up hearing about Habitat for Humanity from the principal of the school she worked at. After Habitat reached out to Issaquah Elementary, soliciting applications from local families for a housing unit they were building on donated land, the principal encouraged Candy to apply. And so in 1994, Candy received one of the first Habitat for Humanity homes in the area, built by the pre-merger East King County chapter. Alongside Candy and the Habitat volunteers, all kinds of people from the community turned out to help build her house. “The whole community bought into my house. The teachers did some work, helped paint it. One of the baseball coaches put the carpet in, my ex-landlord put the plumbing in… my mom and my dad had just retired, so my mom had him come down every day, like a job. And so he came every day and then my mom, a couple times a week, would make a lunch and bring it down so we would have something to eat… the mayor worked on my house… all of Issaquah helped build my house.”

The relief that came afterwards allowed Candy and her children to refocus their energy on things they hadn’t been able too before. “It gave me the opportunity to take extra classes, and then I applied for the supervisor job, which I probably wouldn’t have. I would have stayed a custodian… I was able to do it because I was secure, when you think you’re going to have to move, you’re not going to sign up to take classes… After I moved in, and stuff was settled, I was just like ‘I can do this.’… “My daughter said it made her more comfortable being in college, when she wasn’t worried about me and the house payments, and stuff like that… it kind of made everything just progress.”

Candy has been able to provide support to her children and grandchildren as they progress through college. She’s excited about retiring in her home since she paid it off in 2014 and looks forward to travelling more among other things. “I’ll have lots of time to garden!” She even hopes to have her ashes scattered around the big tree in her backyard. “My favorite thing is every day in summer, I get home, and take a nap in the hammock… It’s beautiful, with the green grass and the plum trees. It’s a nice, zen place to be.”