Painting a Picture


On the South Side of Chicago, a single mother has just been evicted from her apartment. She works full time to support her family and has never been late on a rent check, but even so, she has been given 60 days to vacate. The whole apartment complex is being sold or renovated or demolished—she doesn’t know which, but inevitably the result is the same for her. She will pack her belongings, get her children ready and, finally, move. She has a choice to make though—and by no means is it an easy one. She can look for another apartment to rent and hope that “affordable” doesn’t mean “unsafe,” or she can look into buying a home.


She’s never owned her own house before and while she knows it would be a great investment for her family, she doesn’t know the first thing about owning a home. On top of that, the housing crisis wasn’t so long ago that she has tremendous faith in the market to begin with.


But she hates moving over and over again. She knows how hard it is for her kids and she hates that they often have to settle for dirty buildings in dangerous areas. She loves her kids and only wants what’s best for them, but home loans and mortgages are intimidating and hard to secure, especially for a first time homebuyer. Especially for a single mother, working full-time, on the South Side of Chicago.


If you were to survey residents of Chicago, you’d find that this situation occurs much more often than you might originally think. In fact, this isn’t the story of just one mother, this is the shared background of three separate women who each in turn decided to partner with Habitat Chicago over a year ago. And while this happens to be one common thread, these women are so much more than that.


Shelonda works as a teacher, tutor and artist; she is a fierce learner who is constantly in motion to absorb as much information as humanly possible. At first she may come off as shy, but within five minutes of talking to her you will find that she is anything but. Shelonda loves language, animals and her family, which, as it turns out, is why she is working so hard to build a stable home. With her son now in college, she feels that the biggest gift she can give him is peace of mind.


Takiera lives for her children. She is a medical assistant and mother-of-two who can’t wait for a place to call her own; a place where they can all sing songs together at dinner; a place where they can play board games on the porch on weekends; a place where she can spoil her kids rotten—just like they deserve.


Darlene is a force to be reckoned with; she is strong, confident and, most of all, she is determined. When her daughter Toya was diagnosed with Lupus, Darlene doubled down and worked twice as hard to pay the ever-increasing medical bills. It was a hard fight, but in the end they won. Today Toya runs an organization to support Lupus survivors and Darlene is more than happy to watch after Toya’s son, Wesley.


If you were to look at portraits of each of these families you would see vibrant, smiling, ecstatic faces looking back at you, but you’d only see part of the picture. You’d miss where each of these families has come from, but more importantly you’d miss where these families are going. In a few short weeks we are dedicating three homes to these three wonderful families and we could not be more excited. Of course, you’re invited too, because some things are better celebrated together. After all, what could make a better picture frame than the frames of the houses these women built together.


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