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Making Something Permanent

Builders measuring.

Planting Roots Through the First-Time Homeownership Program

Kira and Rokos know how to turn a house into a home. Through 16 years together, they have lived in many different rentals, often finding themselves priced out or facing other issues common to renters throughout the country. Every time they have moved, Kira has immediately set out to transform the space into something of her own. But when asked what they will do first in their new Habitat home, there’s some disagreement.

“I want to paint the cabinets and put a mural on the walls,” Kira said. Rokos laughed, “I was thinking of stretching out a bit first. Breathe a sigh of relief. It will be a huge relief when it’s done. I feel like a fiveyear- old on Christmas Eve, just waiting.”

“The first thing I do is decorate. Any apartment we’ve ever lived in throughout the course of our relationship, I made it into a home, a place where you feel safe and you can be your full self,” said Kira. They have shared many apartments over the years.

“We’ve moved several times, usually because it’s gotten too expensive or someone bought the building and moved us all out,” said Rokos. “You’re at the whim of the environment when you’re renting.” Kira added, “I hate that uprooted feeling.”

The couple moved to New Orleans in 2016, settling down in the Upper Ninth Ward. Immediately charmed by the city, they knew on their first visit they needed to make it their home. Now they are about to move into a Habitat home just five blocks from their current rental. Part of what attracted them to the neighborhood is the spirit of the community.

“Everyone comes out to help each other. We saw during Hurricane Ida, everyone came out and cooked what was in their fridge in a big barbecue. People helped clean the storm drains together. They even tried to help us find our missing cat,” Kira said. Rokos added, “People who stay here have the attitude of ‘we’re going to have to pull together.’”

They joined the Habitat program just before the start of the pandemic, which meant their time in the program was different from most. Much of their sweat equity was done in the ReStores, but they did find time to help on their own home.

“The construction lead and the volunteers appreciated the notes we left all over [our house]. We wrote little love letters all over the frames. And I asked if we could put a time capsule in the walls,” Kira said.

Despite the uncertainty that came with the onset of COVID, Rokos and Kira knew they wanted to put down roots.

“You can’t try to predict the world we live in,” said Rokos. “I think COVID hitting made me feel that, with everything so impermanent right now, we needed to make something that is ours and make something permanent.

To apply for a home, visit www.nolahomebuyer.org.

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