No More Old Memories Hanging on these Walls

This story comes to us from our member Housing Development Alliance, Inc. in Hazard, KY.

A little over nine months have passed since Lisa and her children found themselves standing at a crossroads. The single mother of two was back in school and working full time, living in a cramped trailer owned by her abusive ex-husband who had threatened to sell it from under them. While debating what to do, a friend at work mentioned calling the Housing Development Alliance, and in the few months that followed she was able to qualify for a new home.

Now, she and her family have lived in their home for just over a week, and have begun a new life.

In the fall of 2012, Lisa had not considered homeownership. Her credit score had dropped due to the bad credit of her ex-husband while they were married. She found herself paying his mortgage and repairing his credit while living inside his mobile home and doing nothing for her own credit.

The home in which they lived was riddled with holes where he had punched the walls out of anger.

“I tried to hide them with pictures,” Lisa said, “but my son knew.”

She filled out an application and began working with the housing counselors at HDA. Despite her low credit they informed her it could be repaired and she could qualify for a new home. As a way of keeping her ex-husband from finding out and kicking the family to the street, Lisa was forced to keep the good news a secret from her children.

Construction began on Lisa’s home just after repairing her credit and qualifying for financing. In just one week in March, the house went from a cement block foundation to a frame thanks to the work of several college students volunteering their spring break. The students wanted to meet Lisa, and on their last day of work she got the chance to spend her lunch break at the site with the group from Lafayette College.

It was the first time she had seen the home with walls. She left the house after many tears, hugs, thanks and congratulations.

Just a few months later the interior of the home was nearly complete and her children still had no idea they were moving. She took the children with her on a trip to pick out light fixtures.

“I told them we were picking them out for a friend. When we came over here they were like, ‘This is awesome. This is cool. I wish we had a place like this,’” said Lisa. “Then I started crying and I said, ‘This is ours.’ Just the smile on their faces is all I needed.”

The house was finished in the short amount of time that followed. The family packed, and Lisa closed on the home. As Chris Doll, HDA’s assistant executive director, handed her the keys she started to cry. They moved in that day.

At almost the exact same time, Lisa’s new neighbor, Theresa, was moving in to her own house. Theresa is also a working single mother whose home was also built by the Housing Development Alliance.

Despite never having met before, the two women had chosen the same colors for the exterior of their houses. They both also come from similar situations and both have two children.

“We are going to have a cookout and get to know each other a little bit more,” said Lisa.

The three bedroom, two bath home is affordable, energy efficient, and spacious for the family. Lisa said this was the closest she has ever lived to work and gets to spend much more time with her children, even having time to run home for lunch. She said she feels so grateful for the chance at home ownership that she wants to help anyone else she can through this process.

“If anybody needs help with their volunteer hours or whatever, I don’t care a bit to help,” said Lisa. “I am all about paying it forward.”

In the meantime, the boxes are unpacked and soon Lisa will graduate from college. She said this feels like a whole new start for the family. “It has been a new beginning for us, new memories,” she said. “No old memories still hanging on the walls.”