Nearly five years ago, Tonya accomplished what she previously believed to be an impossible feat: she became a Habitat homeowner all by herself.
“This is one of the things in my life that I hold as a model for everything,” she said. “If I can get through that, everything else is trivial.”
The path to homeownership seemed out of reach for Tonya while raising three kids and working as a certified nursing assistant at Providence Portland Medical Center. When a friend suggested she apply for a home with Habitat, Tonya thought there was no way in the world she’d be able to get one. She had no experience with or knowledge about construction and felt the whole process was outside of her wheelhouse.
But the rent on her already-too-small apartment was beginning to increase, and she knew she would not be able to afford it for much longer. She felt that somewhere, somehow, homeownership was possible for her and her family. She just had to go out and find it.
“Everything starts on pencil and paper,” Tonya said. “Everything starts in a journal and that’s what I did.”
She picked up an application from Habitat, completed the paperwork and sat back to wait with her family. When she found out her application had been accepted, she was surprised and relieved to finally have a way out of her current situation.
Although Tonya felt nervous to help out at the build site, she ended up really enjoying the experience. She learned valuable construction skills and grew comfortable using power tools.
In 2019, Tonya moved into her new Habitat home with her youngest and eldest sons. She lovingly describes her 10-year-old as a “wild child” who loves to jump and dance around the home.
Her home is filled with bright, feminine shades of yellow and red on the walls and furniture. Tonya is always working on new projects as she thinks of them, whether it’s redecorating the house, painting the walls or something else, and she said she will never be bored now that she owns a home; there’s always something to do.
For health reasons, Tonya’s middle child lives in a medical foster home, but she visits with her family periodically. Tonya said she never knows what the future holds for her daughter, but having her own space to call home gives her a sense of peace that everything will be OK.
“At least I have the space to be prepared if there was an emergency and she needed to come home,” she said.
Tonya has persisted through her own set of medical issues this year, and she said she often ponders what her life would be like if she had to pay rent on an expensive apartment while juggling medical bills.
“It is a nice comfort knowing that my mortgage is way cheaper than what people are paying for apartments, which really helps when you’re chronically ill,” she said.
While everybody’s situation is different, Tonya said applying for a Habitat home is worth a try even if it seems impossible.
“The whole program and the process definitely stamps you with a level of empowerment,” she said. “If you can do that, you can do whatever else you set your mind to.”