Joanna remembered the living situation for her and her four children over the years.
“Inflation happened and the landlord wanted to go up on the rent,” she said. “So, we left there and went to my brother’s house in a two-bedroom, one-bath apartment [and slept] on the floor on blow-up beds. I told myself, ‘I was not going to do this.’”
A friend told Joanna about Habitat for Humanity’s Affordable Homeownership Program, but she initially had second thoughts. “At first, I thought ‘This is a lot. I don’t think I can do this,’” she admitted. “But anything good is not going to come easy. You have to work for it.”
And for Joanna, it didn’t come easy. Shortly after starting her partnership with Habitat, her car broke down. “I couldn’t get a new car,” she remembered. “So I had to walk across the bridge almost every time I had to volunteer.”
Now, she closed on her home and is the newest member of Habitat’s Prospect Avenue Neighborhood in the city of Fort Myers. Habitat partners with homeowners like Joanna to achieve decent, affordable housing. But it’s a hand-up, not a handout.
“I am blessed with the chance to come up with a plan with people. When somebody decides to buy a home, I am there as their partner,” said Melody Lineberry, housing advisor with Habitat. “Watching somebody who seems to defy every obstacle, seems to defy the limits, it’s amazing [to see].”
For Joanna, her new home means an end to years of precarious living for her and her family. And despite the obstacles, she wouldn’t have changed a thing.
“I’m so happy that I did go through the journey because, to be honest, I learned a lot,” she said. “I promise you, if you keep going, you’re going to get to the finish line.”