No Task Too Big: Deloris’ Journey to Homeownership

Habitat for Humanity Homebuyer Deloris Deloris

Deloris’ life tells a story of persistent, even demanding, growth. Growing up in Northeast Portland, she was not yet 10 years old and helping her working parents by taking care of her siblings, helping with dinner, and looking after the home. Through these early years of heavy responsibility, she cites her capacity to deal with stress and hardship.  

Then, at just 17, her family was suddenly uprooted from their home in the King Neighborhood. The City of Portland used eminent domain to take her home under a then-active Urban Renewal platform that caused the displacement of thousands of North Portland homeowners—an overwhelming majority were Black residentsAfter relocating to 15th and Prescott, her family re-settled and was forced to begin anew.  
Now, almost 50 years later, Deloris is partnering with Habitat to become a first-time homeowner. Soon she will purchase a home in the Portsmouth neighborhood and join a 12-home community near where she first grew up 

When reflecting on what owning a home means to her in light of that early displacement, Deloris says calmly:

“Buying a home feels like lying under a warm blanket on a cold day, it heats up my inner self.”  

Although she experienced displacement early on in her life, Deloris’ character never dissolvedinsteadit anchored her resolve. Since then, as a single-mother, grandmother, and adopted great-aunt, she worked against long odds to become a success while always lending her heart and home to others in need. And, at a proud 64 years of age, she has just as much to enjoy looking back on as she does to looking forward.  

By the 90s, Deloris took a big step in her journey and moved her family to Mississippi to be near extended familyThe sun was warm and life, as she describes it, was peaceful. Then, just as she was settled into her new life, Hurricane Katrina swept through and destroyed everything in sight. At that point, Deloris decided to return home and make a fresh start in Portland. Yet, after looking for a home to buy in her original neighborhood in North Portland, she was shocked at how high home values had become.  

She found an apartment, and, yet again, began to resettle into her new life in Portland. By this time, she had raised her children and was helping raise her granddaughter when she made the decision to go back to school and earn her degree in Child and Family Development while also working full-time. Her determination didn’t stop her there, though. She went back again, this time earning her Master’s Degree in Diagnosis Psychology. In her education, Deloris set an example for her granddaughter about the power of persistence. This hard work then landed her a good job at Cascadia Behavioral Health Care working as a Case Manager for housing, connecting Portlanders experiencing homelessness with the services that helped to get them off the street and into a home.  

All the while helping to get others into long-term housing, she worked slowly to rebuild her credit, set new goals, and eventually began working with Catholic Charities and Home Forward. She remembers her case managers pushing her to believe that homeownership was a reachable targetbut she just didn’t think it was possible.  She questioned tackling such a big task at her age. 

With a village of support behind her, she began the arduous process of saving and qualifying for various resources that would put her on the long road to becoming a homeowner. During this time, she learned she qualified for the City of Portland’s N/NE Preference Policy that prioritizes residents who have generational ties to North and Northeast Portland as well as those who were affected by the City’s harmful urban renewal practices.

Later, her supporting team at Home Forward connected her with Habitat for Humanity. When she had a meeting with Habitat’s Homeownership Manager, she thought to herself, “Oh, this sounds great!” She applied and waited. She wasn’t confident about her odds. She was still saving, still building credit, and was busy helping raise her newborn great-nephew King. Then she received a call.  

I thought I was going to die—like I had won the lottery! You can’t breathe, you can’t think, you can’t even comprehend.”

In just a few months, Deloris will move into her home and return to a neighborhood she once call home. She is grateful that in buying her first home, she will rejoin a community she grew up in and leave a new legacy for her granddaughter and young nephew. She says she feels secure. Knowing they have a permanent place where memories are built and nourished and hopefully, they will continue the tradition for generations to come.”  

“Purchasing a home makes me excited because I feel I have control and ambition over my life. Being able to purchase and leave a legacy for my granddaughter whom I raised and now my young great nephew, means they will have a better start to life. Legacies have to start somewhere, why not here?”  

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