Open Doors: a Habitat family story

Open Doors Habitat Family Story Blog

Jerri moved into her habitat home in 2002 and lives there with her 25-year-old granddaughter, Terry, who is disabled and requires 24/7 care. “Without getting this house my granddaughter wouldn’t have been able to stay with me, I wouldn’t have been able to care for her,” Jerri told us. Buying a Habitat house has helped Jerri support her entire family, which she struggled to do before applying to our homeownership program. “I had four kids, and I was working, and nobody wanted to rent to a single person with kids… with Terry being disabled, that was even harder because we couldn’t get a second floor apartment, it had to be accessible to her, and that was impossible.” She struggled to support her family on $600-$700 a month and was homeless, off and on, for a number of years. By the time she applied to Habitat for Humanity, she and Terry had been living in a motel for five months.

Being a homeowner was an adjustment for Jerri. “It’s something I couldn’t imagine. I didn’t have that growing up. We moved, about every two months, and then I was back and forth from Oregon to Washington every six months, from the time I was seven. So stability was not even imaginable for my mind… once it set in, it was like I can come in, and I can shut the world out, and not worry about any of it. And that was really… overwhelming.” She’s come a long way though, when it comes to her stability, self-reliance and what she can offer her family. “It’s a reassurance to them—they know, if they need a place, they have a place to come. And that means a lot.”

While Jerri was able to give her family the reliability that they needed, she achieved more than that by inspiring her children to strive towards home ownership and showing her grandchildren what it means to own and take care of something. “My daughter and my granddaughter, they can’t believe I can do what I do. I redid my bathroom, now I’m doing my kitchen… and my brother, totally thinks ‘you’re not supposed to be able to do that! You’re not supposed to know how to do that! You’re not supposed to own a power saw!’ … because I’m a woman, and because I’m his sister… when he comes up he just shakes his head, but I say ‘if you don’t do it, I’m going to!” Remodeling her home is now one of the things Jerri looks forward to most since she has the knowledge, and the time, and doesn’t need anyone’s permission.

Jerri’s homeownership helped to foster a community that extended past her own family. “My neighbors here, we’re all homeowners. And we look out for one another.” Jerri’s been able to open her home to whoever needs it, including the 13 foster children her daughter Kim has looked after, at one point or another. “My stability has caused them to be more stable. I’ve been able to help them out when they need it, which wasn’t possible before.”