Naomi Joseph stands outside with her daughter, looking at her new home. She wipes her eyes and waits for the ceremony to be completed and the keys to her new home to be handed over.
Joseph, a single mother of two young children and one adult child, is one of eight families on hand to celebrate the Habitat For Humanity Greater Vancouver new build project in Mission.
The project will eventually consist of 19 homes in Mission to help families break out of the poverty-rent cycle.
Joseph said “The whole experience has been humbling and overwhelming and filled with just gratitude and positive feelings for everyone involved. So happy for these other families because we know that we are going to be neighbours and a little community for years to come and also so much gratitude to these volunteers who don’t even know us who volunteered their time to build us a home.”
A few years back, Joseph and her kids became “pretty much homeless all of a sudden.” Luckily they were able to stay with her parents.
It was challenging as she and her children had to share one room and one bed in a small two bedroom apartment.
“I applied to literally every housing community that there is in the Lower Mainland – co-ops, BC Housing, family housing, subsidized housing, YWCA housing – I literally applied everywhere and followed up with letters and phone calls. I’m really persistent because, of course, I want my children to have safe housing that I can afford to pay for,” said Joseph.
Then a friend suggested she look into Habitat For Humanity. At that time, she wasn’t aware that the organization had any housing available in the area.
She decided to apply and within a few months received a reply, which surprised her. Joesph said when you apply for subsidized housing, you usually feel “like a number.” You don’t hear anything back from anyone, not even whether they received your application or not, she said.
“I’ve been on the wait list for almost three years and I’ve heard nothing,” she said, but Habitat contacted her quickly.
“I thought, ‘There’s a little bit of hope here.”’
After about a year and a half – the process was slowed down a bit due to Covid – she was informed that she would be getting a home.
The relief was immediate.
“Not knowing when and if and where me and my kids were going to end up was so hard. And as soon as we knew for sure, it was time to celebrate because we knew there was light at the end of the tunnel. We knew we would be landing in our new home when it’s ready. We knew we had something.”
And when the keys were presented to her this month, it all became a reality.
“We were just over the moon. It was disbelief I walked around there and you can actually feel it, that the people that were in there, they put thought into it. They put love into it. They put caring into it. It’s not like they were pumping out another place that’s gonna go on the market.”
Her move in date is tomorrow (June 26).
“Habitat For Humanity, they gave us hope. They are giving us a chance to plant roots, to build a foundation. Housing is so important and they understand that. They are giving me a chance to build something for my kids.”
However, it’s not just a home. It’s a chance to belong to a community and to establish some equity
“Not only are they giving us a home, that we can afford, in a community of other people who are going through the same experience as us, but also through this experience, they are teaching my kids to give, which is invaluable.”
Joseph explained that the contract she signed with the non-profit organization is basically a long-term lease.
“My name will be going on the title and I’m earning equity, which is completely impossible for a single mom in the Lower Mainland.”
Habitat provides the family with education on financial literacy, home-ownership, insurance and estate planning – as they are expected to maintain the property while living there.
Once kids grow up, or alternatively when the family decides to move out, a percentage of their accumulated rent payments are returned to them for the purpose of a down payment on a house of their own.
The future is now looking brighter for Joseph who said she is planning on going back to school to finish her degree.
“It’s the chance I needed. I wasn’t looking for anything for free. I just needed someone to believe that I could do it with a little bit of help and I feel that they saw that and they gave it to me.”