Habitat for Humanity Home Is A Foundation for Stability, Security, and Self Reliance

Kelly has devoted well over the last decade of her professional life to conducting research that helps seniors and their loved ones access needed resources. Yet, Kelly and her young daughter have been unable to access safe, affordable housing in Kittitas County themselves…until they applied to Kittitas County Habitat for Humanity for a Stuart Meadows home.

It was a Facebook ad that led Kelly to apply for a Habitat home. “I applied and heard back a while later that I had made the interview round. I interviewed and got word a month or two later that I was chosen!”

As housing prices in Ellensburg skyrocketed, along with the rest of the region, Kelly feared she might be stuck in her current ‘chaotic’ living situation. Though she’s aware there are less expensive places to live outside Ellensburg, Kelly must remain in the area to comply with her daughter’s custody agreement. As a single mother, her income just cannot accommodate soaring mortgage prices in the region’s traditional real estate market.

“I’ll be excited to be in a permanent living situation and to be able to bring my three cats with me. The first thing I will do when I move in is help my daughter set up her very own room.”

Moving into her own Stuart Meadows home will give Kelly the security she needs to continue developing her career in marketing, writing and research on behalf of seniors. And it will provide the freedom she needs to hike, walk and just ‘chill’ more often with her growing daughter.

Strength and Determination Take Cheri Home

Cheri’s back straightens with pride when she lists her accomplishments as a single mother. “My goal when I got clean,” she says, “was to own my own home before I turned 40.” With incredible determination and help from Kittitas County Habitat for Humanity, Cheri will add that goal to her many other achievements when she moves into her Stuart Meadows home. Cheri is currently living in a tiny, moldy, subsidized apartment with her disabled mother and two children, a 16-year-old boy and a five-year-old girl.

Like many in her generation, Cheri struggled with drug addiction from age 17. But when she had to give up her infant daughter because she was using, Cheri decided she was done with that lifestyle and went immediately into treatment. “I went from being homeless, with no car, no job, and no license to getting my own apartment, a car, and my license. Now, with a decent job my credit score has improved significantly. I have my daughter and I’m doing pretty good.”

Cheri has earned her new status the hard way, working nights as a health care housekeeper from 5 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Then she goes home to sleep a bit and takes her daughter to school.

With encouragement from her mom and a high school friend, Cheri applied to Habitat, though her first application was denied, because it used her mother’s poor credit rating. Undaunted, Cheri tried again using her own credit rating. “When they called me to say I’d been chosen for a home I was so excited. Words can’t describe how I felt.” She says the process was simple; she encourages anyone in need to apply.

Cheri acknowledges that her previous lifestyle was hard on her children, especially her son. And she hopes that having a home of their own will provide stability and confidence to the whole family. Her son, who suffers severe social anxiety, is excited about helping to build their new home during the family’s “sweat equity” hours.

How will life be different for Cheri in Stuart Meadows? “I’ll feel more like an adult having my own home. I’m just hoping that getting this home will help me accept how far I’ve come, and that I never have to go back to the lifestyle I was living.”

Stuart Meadows Provides the Perfect “Hand Up” for a Young Family

In today’s real estate market, Paige and her husband Manny saw no path for them to home ownership. And, after renting for nearly eight years, they longed for their own place.  “We want some freedom to make a home our own, make changes, have a yard and build equity,” says Paige. That’s what Habitat is all about.

In her job at the Kitsap County Housing Authority, Paige was aware of the Habitat opportunity at Stuart Meadows, but she and Manny took their time to explore options. And the more they searched, the more they realized Habitat was a good fit for their family.  Manny works seasonally in landscaping and that makes them less desirable in the eyes of traditional mortgage lenders. But for Habitat, this is less important. “The market is so terrible that we’re happier every day we won the Habitat home.”

They were delighted to learn that the Stuart Meadows home mortgage would be even less than their current monthly rent.  “We get a home, we get equity, and we spend less every month,” says Paige. Their hopes for the future will be realized, they believe, because they can build wealth for themselves and their children.

Other than the freedom of home ownership, not much will change for Paige and family.  “Nowhere is too far in Ellensburg,” says Paige.  So, their children will remain in the same school district and day care for their 8-month-old daughter is even closer to Stuart Meadows than their current rental. “We’re getting really excited,” she adds.  “We want to go out and buy all the furniture now, but we’re holding back until the right time.” She’s excited to participate in the build as part of Habitat’s required “sweat equity” hours, as well.  “I’m into learning new skills.” 

Stuart Meadows Homeowner Spotlight: Ronnie

Ronnie has been a long-haul truck driver his whole life, supporting his family and raising a daughter. In 2012, he returned to his roots in Ellensburg to obtain much needed back surgery…alone.  He bought a used motor home in the Shady Acres mobile home park and has lived there for 14 years, and he kept driving until 2020 when a heart attack incapacitated him. When he learned the Shady Acres would shut down in December 2022, Ronnie feared he might be homeless.

Because he dreamed of owning a home, Ronnie had been applying to Kittitas County Habitat for Humanity for housing since 2016. He is a frequent visitor to the Habitat Store and tries to stay in touch with the organization. When it was announced that land had been secured for Stuart Meadows, Habitat staff paid a visit to Shady Acres to inform its residents. Ronnie applied immediately, qualified and was accepted.

“I am so excited!  This has been a dream come true,” Ronnie declares. “All my life I’ve wanted to own a home. This is a life changing moment for me.”

Ronnie will be among the first to move into a Stuart Meadows home, and he’s grateful.  To other seniors who might consider applying for a Habitat home, Ronnie says “Give it a chance. The process was easy and informative. You’re guided very clearly on what you need to do.”

When fully complete in 2025, Stuart Meadows will consist of 18 new homes serving a range of household sizes and those making less than 80% average median income (AMI), with three of the homes reserved for those making 60% AMI or less. Each of the 18 units will offer three bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms, allowing for flexibility in buyer needs for multi-generational families, couples, as well as accommodating small and large families.

As for Ronnie, he’s looking forward to feeling secure in his own home, with his own space and room for a garden.

“I am very grateful to know I will be living in a clean and safe community and having a Habitat home will give me this sense of security. I want to thank all the people involved, especially Jessica Jorgensen, who helped me get to this point, Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King & Kittitas Counties, the City of Ellensburg and the contractors. Thank you so much for this opportunity!”

Meet House #17 Homeowners: The Haysom Family

Every Habitat homeowner has a unique story to share with their community about the experience of working with this global non-profit. For the Haysom family, Habitat has made a major impact on their quality of life and stability through affordable housing.

But, how did they learn about the opportunities in store? “My neighbor in Ellensburg told me about Habitat. She told me she didn’t qualify, but it was something she really thought we should consider looking into,” says Katie Haysom, Habitat homeowner and Kittitas County resident.

She adds, “I didn’t understand; why? Why does this company do this work? Why build houses for families? It all sounded too good to be true.” A non-profit that helps community members find and build affordable homes may seem impossible but since the foundation of Habitat for Humanity in 1976 this has been a reality across the globe.

Navigating the Building Process

Once the Haysom family was approved for the process of building their forever home they no longer had to worry about their future living conditions. Haysom explains, “We were living in an apartment that had bad mold. It was difficult living there on so many levels, mainly mental [and] emotional. I also didn’t always feel safe there.”

But, the process of building a safer family home does not mean that the homeowners can sit back and relax. There are a lot of steps that occur in order to build each home and the process of sweat-equity means that the homeowners must put in hours working with the organization.

For Haysom, this was one of the most enjoyable aspects of working to build her new home. She explains, “Personally, I had fun talking to people about Habitat and advocating for the company. I had so much fun meeting so many amazing people from around the community.”

Haysom adds that working at events and builds with past Habitat employees allowed her family to be together and learn from local leaders. “There were also the volunteers from so many different companies and organizations,” she adds. “I love seeing the signatures of love and well wishes from the volunteers from around the world.”

Everyone involved with this build made an impact on the Haysom family. “In short, I feel like I got more out of it by meeting so many beautiful, amazing souls through their volunteering on our home. I still think about them often,” Haysom finalizes.

Looking to the Future

Now that the Haysom family has a stable living environment there are many new benefits to being homeowners. “There are the typical physical blessings of a home, but I see many other benefits that might still be unknown,” she says. “I worry less (well, slightly less) about the well-being of our kids. I feel as though our kids are very safe and lucky to live here.” 

Safety and peace of mind are two important factors to providing a reliable home for a family. “I personally feel calmer and at peace here at home. Our kids are thriving. We all feel more secure. And we feel like we can actually plan for the long-term,” adds Haysom.

Also, being able to grow closer to family is one of the positive results of the home building process. Haysom explains, “Jeremy and I have really bonded over our joint experiences, like in the garden or when we put in our fence. We’ve really bonded as a family. We’re thinking about our future more and less about our immediate needs.”

One of the ways the Haysom family has settled into their new home is by finding a routine and enjoyment in community activities. From her husband Jeremy Haysom receiving his EMT certification to her kids playing sports, she explains that these are some of the impacts having a home has made on their lives. 

Haysom adds, “I’ve made some great friends, and I was able to start back at school at CWU, double majoring [in] Spanish and Elementary Education. This last Spring 2020 quarter, I earned a 4.0 GPA.” Since this time, Haysom explains that she has also received a WWIN scholarship for her hard work and determination at Central.

Being homeowners is not an easy task but for many families it is worth the effort. “Homeownership means every ounce of blood, sweat and tears along the way,” she explains. “The love of homeownership is in every fiber of my being. It gives me great joy to be responsible for my surroundings, from mowing the lawn all the way down to the septic system!”

With each new Habitat family there are many individuals across the globe experiencing the same joy as this family has. Haysom finalizes, “I wish that we could build [10] Habitat for Humanity homes per year in our county! It has truly changed everything for our family and me especially. Donate, volunteer and support your local Habitat.”