The issue of home affordability touches everyone in our community. No group, however, is more adversely impacted by the shortage of affordable and available housing than female-headed households. That’s why ten years ago Habitat for Humanity of Lee and Hendry declared our commitment to empowering female-headed households by taking a leadership role in Habitat International’s Women Build campaign.
Over the last decade, our Women Build campaign has activated and empowered hundreds of women in Lee and Hendry Counties to raise funds and build homes for strong, independent women in need of a safe and affordable home. Through teamwork, our dedicated Women Build sponsors, donors, and volunteers have made homeownership a reality for 20 local women and their 50 children—providing a genuine opportunity for them to build a better life that includes personal and economic stability.
One of those 20 is Dania, who like far too many individuals, found herself trapped in a volatile relationship. Surviving and escaping an abusive partner is tough for anyone; however, it’s especially challenging for working-class mothers of moderate financial means. Dania works hard and has a decent job in the Lee County School District, but the high cost of housing makes it nearly impossible to find an affordable rental that could meet their needs.
After enduring years of abuse, Dania knew she had to get her children out of that house…“I didn’t want my son to grow up thinking this is how a woman should be treated, and I didn’t want my daughter thinking it’s okay to just put up with this.” So, with the little money she had but no clear plan, Dania found the courage to leave and the strength to persist.
“My children were my strength and motivation.” It wasn’t easy, but to get by Dania and her children moved into her mother’s small apartment. The overcrowded living conditions lacked privacy and certainly wasn’t a long-term solution, but at least they were safe.
For Dania, owning a home was always a dream. With a home, she could accommodate her growing children and work toward a future of independence. But with a limited income, how could she save the money for a down-payment or have access to non-predatory credit? For these reasons, her dream of homeownership was just that…a dream.
In 2015, Dania learned of the Women Build campaign through a friend and began volunteering with the Dream Restorers team. The idea of “women coming together, joining each other to support other women” resonated with Dania, and she quickly discovered that homeownership was possible through Habitat’s affordable homeownership program.
The process was challenging. But after working with Habitat counselors to pay down her debts, Dania was accepted into the affordable homeownership program in July of 2019. A mere two months later, she had completed her sweat equity hours, attended the educational courses, and paid $1,700 towards the closing costs of her home. Then in September, just a few weeks after her children started the new school year, Dania’s family moved into their new Habitat home.
Through affordable homeownership and the Women Build campaign, Dania feels empowered. Now, she’s telling her story and using newfound stability to lift women experiencing similar hardships. After making an online donation to the 2020 Women Build campaign, Dania left the following comment, “strong women, may we know them, may we be them, and may we raise them.” Well said, Dania.
To learn more about how you can join Dania in supporting the 2020 Women Build, please visit https://www.habitat4humanity.org/donate/women-build/ or email Elisha at [email protected].