Milestones: Making the Call

The first step in becoming a Habitat homeowner is deciding to apply for a Habitat home. For some, this can be the hardest step. Whether because they are afraid of rejection or because they don’t feel ready, or for many other complicated reasons, many future homeowners hesitate before making the call that will change their lives. Some know about the program for months or even years before picking up the phone for themselves. For Michelle McDaniel, her journey began with two of her coworkers who became Habitat homeowners.

“A coworker of mine has had a Habitat house for five years,” she said. “Then another coworker just had one built a year ago. They were telling me, ‘You of all people need a Habitat house.'”

Michelle, however, hesitated.

“At that time, I was financially between a rock and a hard spot,” she explained. “I decided to wait till I got the means that I can save a little bit, then I’ll go and do it.”

Michelle did not expect an easy application process.

“I was expecting Habitat to say, ‘Nahh, we can’t help you,’ because I’ve heard that many times. ‘No, I’m sorry we can’t help you,'” she said. “Then I was approved. I could have scarfed down a whole box of donuts.”

Her application process took only a few weeks.

“I was tired of paying rent to a landlord who didn’t want to fix anything,” she explained. “I have a patched ceiling that I did myself with foam insulation. It still hasn’t been fixed, and thatw as three years ago. I have a bathtub that leaks. They told me, ‘We’re going to have new owners soon.’ The new owner came. Then my refrigerator went out. I told them, and they said, ‘Oh we’re not buing no new appliances for nobody except new tenants.’ I am the longest tenant there. I should get dibs first. I had to purchase a little college dorm fridge instead.”

She had had hard times even before her current apartment.

“I was homeless for a long time,” she said. “It was an experience upon itself, having to figure out what your next move was, how you was gonna eat, how you was gonna stay clean. I did side hustles washing windows and picking up cans, doing whatever it took.”

Her experiences made her determined to find a better place, but even knowing two people with Habitat homes, even wanting a better place, she had hesitated. The decision came suddenly.

“I was like, ‘I don’t know,” she said, “And then I was like, ‘Okay, I’m gonna do it.'”

Now she is on her way to becoming a homeowner. She has completed most of her hours, and she is now working on her own home.

“It’s gonna be mine,” she said. “My house. I don’t have to hear, ‘you can’t put pictures on the wall. You can’t do no painting. You can’t have your music loud’ or anything. It’s mine. Right now, I’m living in a small, rinky dink apartment. It is what it is. It’s just a roof. It’s not home. This is home.”