Deborah used to put her baby girl and her three boys— 16, 13, and 4— in the car and drive around Rockford looking at houses. They were imagining what it would be like to live in one of them. They were imagining having a little house of their own.
But that, thought Deborah, was just a pipe dream.
In reality, the family of five was living in a deteriorating, two-bedroom rental with a single closet. The basement was full of water, and the boys had chronic asthma from the dampness and mold. Deborah was a single parent, and on her sole income, she thought it would be impossible to make a change. But when a shooting next door forced her and her children to hit the floor one night, it was the last straw.
Deborah applied for Habitat’s program on a prayer— she still did not imagine that buying her own home was something she could afford. When she got the call that she had been selected for the home buying program, she was blown away that it was really happening for her.
She was buying that little home she had always dreamed of.
“To finally have a stable place to call ours meant the world,” remembers Deborah. “We were safe. We had a sense of pride and responsibility. We were able to create a space of love and warmth. We were able to know that our home was ours and no one else’s.”
And finances started getting easier too, Deborah recalls. “We could afford our mortgage, and I finally lost that feeling of always struggling.”
That was the year 2000. In 2018, Deborah paid her mortgage off in full.
Deborah says she now lives with a deep, engrained faith that what may seem impossible can always be achieved, and she has instilled this same faith in her kids. Today, that oldest boy, who used to drive around town dreaming with his mom, is a homeowner himself. He bought the house directly across from his childhood home.
Even with her home completely paid off, Deborah says that the way she cares for her house, the way she and her kids live, and the love and concern they show to their neighbors is all about honoring and continuing the legacy that Habitat started all those years ago.
“I was humbled and grateful then,” Deborah says, “and I am humbled and grateful today.”
The first name in this story is a pseudonym at the request of the subject.