From homeless to homeowner: Alex’s story

Alex holds her cat in a warm, sunlight living room, surrounded by bright green plants in a clean home. These two have been through a lot together: from homeless to homeowner, and everything in between.  

Alex moved into her Habitat home at the start of April, but she’s already settled in. There’s not a moving box in sight, and the home already exudes a cozy, lived-in atmosphere.  

She’s gotten good at moving. For years, Alex moved every six months or so due to her unstable housing situation.  

But now, she and her cat can finally lay down roots.  

“I definitely want to be part of the Habitat community long term,” she said.  

Alex’s experience with unstable housing began in 2010, when she moved out of her childhood home in Arizona when she was 17.

Eventually she moved into an apartment, but she was in an abusive relationship and they received two evictions. She fled her abusive partner and moved to Oregon in 2012, where she once again experienced the cycle of rent-burdened, unstable housing.  

“Homelessness is so complex; there’s a lot of other issues that intersect – domestic violence, substance use, mental health,” she said. “Eventually I was just so tired of bouncing around.” 

After years of not opening up to anyone about her situation, she told her story to a potential roommate who decided to give her a chance. Alex was shocked at how compassionate this new roommate was, and they lived together for more than two years.  

It was in this apartment that Alex was able to find a job that worked with her school schedule, along with her mental health and substance abuse treatments. She dedicated herself to working in homeless services, first as a residential advocate in shelters, then as a case manager, and now as somebody who helps secure permanent supportive housing grants.  

While she loves her work, which helped her on her own healing journey, it does not pay nearly enough to help somebody save for a home.  

“I didn’t really see myself owning a home ever, just the way renting is set up,” she said. “You’re paying all of your income to rent and you’re never able to save.” 

Alex in her new Habitat home on April 19, 2024.

One day at work, she received an email about Habitat opening one of its waitlists for a home. She decided to take a chance and apply, and that was her first step toward homeownership.  

Alex completed her participation hours mainly at Foster Commons, where she learned the ins and outs of construction and helped build homes.  

“I’ll probably just keep volunteering with Habitat for the rest of my life,” she said.  

Even throughout her difficult housing journey, Alex was able to complete a political science and public service degree with a minor in civic leadership at Portland State University. She volunteered with Planned Parenthood and did a variety of grassroots organizing. While it was an incredible experience, she said, it was difficult to build community while moving around so much.  

That’s why she’s particularly excited to get involved with Habitat Portland Region. She plans to spend the next couple of months getting involved with her community’s condo association, meeting her neighbors, and tending to her garden plot at the Kenton Community Garden.  

“Honestly, I feel like this has been the opportunity to write the end of that chapter of my life,” she said, “and start on the next.” 

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