Renee is a single mom of two sons, Manny and Sebastian. She’s worked in the medical field for years, but her dream is to become a nurse.
“The current living situation… I try to make it as best as I can, but there are some issues,” she says. The swamp cooler is out of repair and small, and it wasn’t up to the task of keeping her and her boys cool during the hottest Tucson summer on record. There are large potholes around the house that damage her car. Every now and then, they overhear drive-by shootings. “Every time I renew my lease, they raise the rent,” Renee says. “We try to make the best of it.”
“In 2016, I decided, ‘You know, I’m getting older. I’m not gonna have money to leave my kids.
“So if I’m not gonna have money to leave them when I’m gone, I want to leave them with something.” So, Renee started applying to Habitat. Unfortunately, she didn’t qualify for the program the first three times but finally on her fourth application, she was accepted.
She says, “I kept applying because of the housing market. For me, the market was expensive even back when everybody else thought it was cheap. And I just knew in my heart, ‘Just keep trying, just keep trying. The worst they can say is no.’ I was used to that answer and expecting that answer.”
When Renee was a teenager, her older brother Humberto passed away in a tragic car accident. Since then, she has been keeping him in her thoughts and on her mind, knowing that he is watching over her. Renee says, “I know he wanted me to do better in life. I’m just trying to make my brother proud and happy.”
At the moment she was finally accepted into the Habitat program, she says, “I felt my body shaking, and then I just started crying, and I was thanking God and then thanking my brother. Then, I told my sons that they’re going to get their own rooms.”
Renee has started sweat equity and finds that she loves it even when the work can be challenging. “It’s hard at times, but if something ever happens to my house, I know I’ll be able to fix it. I’ll know what to do and I’ll know what parts to buy.”
Manny is most looking forward to having his own room as he moves into high school, while Sebastian can’t wait to have a bathtub! Because none of the homes they’ve lived in have had functional bathtubs, he’s only ever taken showers.
Renee thinks that the boys will both be able to focus more on their homework once they are separated into two different rooms. “They won’t be able to say, ‘You’re distracting me!’”
Renee is excited about being able to use her budgeting skills. Having an affordable mortgage will allow her to host her family or take her kids out to eat every now and then.“We like to watch football, so we could have some family over, with AC. Never had that before.”
“For me, my life will change drastically because the home will be my kids’ forever. It’s going to be mine till I’m gone, but I’m just living in their house, because they’re going to keep it. My life will change because I can leave something now.”
“Knowing that we can call something ours is life-changing itself.”