The Meaning of My Home Dedication - Shelonda M.
In the novel The Bluest Eye, author Toni Morrison poignantly describes home ownership writing:
"Knowing that there was such a thing as outdoors bred in us a hunger for property, for ownership. The firm possession of a yard, a porch, a grape arbor. Propertied black people spent all their energies, all their love, on their nests. Like frenzied, desperate birds, they over decorated everything; fussed and fidgeted over their hard-won homes; canned, jellied, and preserved all summer to fill the cupboards and shelves; they painted, picked, and poked at every corner of their houses. And these houses loomed like hothouse sunflowers among the rows of weeds that were the rented houses."
To me, this is what it means to own a home and Habitat for Humanity Chicago made my dream of homeownership possible.
Sometime ago my family was evicted twice within six months as a result of gentrification within my neighborhood. Sadly for me and so many other families, landlords in Illinois are able to evict tenants without cause. This act is often referred to as a “no cause” eviction. This means that although we were paying our rent, our landlord saw an opportunity to make more money and valued that money over my family’s well-being. The second time this happened to us, I decided I would never let it happen again. So I applied to Habitat for Humanity and was accepted. This acceptance meant security, affordability, peace of mind, and legacy. It means that if I should lose my home, it will be of my own doing, not because of another person's desire for profit.
The road to home ownership with Habitat was long and arduous. All homeowners are required to complete sweat equity hours and there were times when my son and I were weary and the journey to complete the hours seemed impossible. However, we worked hard and acquired many hours. Even then, we still needed more. When the road ahead seemed hardest, a volunteer I had become close with donated some of his hours to help me and my son. This selfless act rejuvenated our resolve to complete our hours and in time, we did.
The work was often rigorous and tiresome. While my son rode around Chicago hauling furniture with the ReStore, I worked on the construction site. There, I climbed roofs, nearly fell off of a ladder while holding a power tool, and even worked on a day when the temperature was five degrees. Although difficult, it was all worth it because I was part of the program and the Habitat community. I knew that countless volunteers and Habitat staff members did these things every day, too, and that kept me going.
I take with me the memories of the volunteers who were generous, kind , hardworking and fixated on making sure that every detail was perfect. This humbled me and will always do so. Their actions exemplified selflessness and have inspired me to do more for others in return.
On Saturday, April 14, 2018, my home dedication ceremony was held by Habitat for Humanity and I was handed the key to my new home. There, my dream of owning a home for my family came to fruition. As I sat with my family and my new neighbors before an audience at our dedication, I felt blessed because our day had arrived. That day meant the beginning of a new journey, where I am a homeowner and have complete control over my family's living situation. I now have the certitude of knowing that we will never be evicted again. That day meant all that we had worked so hard for was accomplished and our deeds were celebrated in a festive ceremony with all of the people who helped us along the way.
I want to thank Habitat for Humanity, its staff, its many donors, and the self-sacrificing volunteers for helping us accomplish our life-changing goal of owning a home and engendering within me hope and faith in the kindness of others.
Written by Shelonda M, Habitat Chicago Homeowner