There’s something to be said about perseverance, for 35-year-old new homeowner, Denise Harris of Watts; it means life for her family is moving in the positive after so many years of struggle. By this Christmas, she and her four children, ages 12-years-old to a one-year-old, will be able to move into their first home built from the ground up. In partnership with Habitat for Humanity of the Greater Los Angeles area, and a commitment that started seven years ago, Denise became homeowner-ready; growing her credit score, setting up a solid bank account and learning to self -maintain a new cost-efficient home. “My four kids and I live in a home that’s simply overcrowded and we’re struggling. The rent keeps going up and it was making us miserable,” says Denise. “This was light at the end of the tunnel and because my family and I were the builders, it makes it so much more sweeter.”
Denise and her kids currently share a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment which offers little-to-no privacy and threatens the family’s financial stability, due to a rising cost of rent. Moving from their overcrowded apartment into a single family home will provide the family with privacy and comfort, plus allow Denise to save and plan for her children’s future.
This past Saturday, Denise, along with a host of other committed volunteers of Habitat for Humanity of the Greater Los Angeles area, and their three decade-long partner, Bank of America, kept her dream moving forward – installing stucco to the exterior walls and painting the her family’s dream house. It takes a village and that’s the message expressed by Director, Foundation Relations at Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles, Francesca DiBrito. “After doing this work since 2009, we became very aware that most of the applicants for new home building didn’t have the basics needed to be new homeowners. We [initiate] a ‘Pathway to Homeownership’, where we’re able to prep our families with financial and building training,” believes Francesca. “I just chose many years ago that I wanted to do fulfilling work. You can’t get any more fulfilling than this. We’re most proud of the volunteer hours that this community has put in to pay it forward.”
Habitat works to eliminate barriers to a better, healthier, more financially stable life for its new homeowners. With the help of volunteers and industry professionals, Habitat homeowners achieve the strength, stability and independence they need to build a better future for themselves and their families.
It was a year ago, in June of 2016 when, Harris received her letter that she was confirmed and put on the extensive waiting list before her first orientation. “The workshops are lead by other ‘partners’, that’s what we call ourselves,” says Denise. “We have partnered with Habitat to better our lives. It’s not just homeownership, we learn how to create living wills for our families; taking home preparedness classes at the Home Depot. They (Habitat) want people with a willingness to partner. Seven years ago, I wasn’t ready.”
The process took seven years to be “ready”, with family and friends contributing in creating the sweet equity by donating hours to building the new home, in an effort to support self-efficiency in the family. “I was in school to get my BA in Public Sector Management, pregnant, working three jobs, and my mother had just died. I had to drop out of school. When the email came, it was heaven sent,” remembers Denise. “God truly came at the right time. There are organizations like Habitat that let me know that God was working for me. If I can be a small encouragement for just one person, then I’ve done my part. The theme for my new home is “Helping to build my home with positive energy and Love,” says Denise. “I’ve created a Facebook page to keep friends and family updated on this journey because it was important that we didn’t leave anyone out. I plan to also create a scrapbook, so that my younger children can remember.”