The Walton Family Home

It was a very different kind of Thanksgiving for the Walton family. Last fall, in the midst of the pandemic, after years of hard work, they were moving into their new home.

“We’re used to fixing food with family, but with COVID going on, we can’t have family over,” Danielle Walton explained. “So we decided to use Thanksgiving to move. It was nice–there was no traffic.”

Before moving to a clinic closer to her new home on the West Bank, Danielle worked as a nurse at a local hospital. As the pandemic hit, she found herself on the frontlines.

“At first, we didn’t know what was going on. People were coming in so sick,” she said. “Months went by, and then in March, that’s when we found out. We didn’t know about COVID until then. The hard part trying to keep up with PPEs. We ran out of N95 masks. I had to go in the patients’ rooms and care for them without proper equipment. I just had to pray.”

Despite all the challenges and difficulties of the pandemic, she still managed to close on her home by fall of 2020. Her family found ways to make it their own within weeks of moving in. She says her daughter loves her new room (“It’s more spacious. She can flip around in that room.”) and that they don’t yet know what they will do with their yard, which is much bigger than their previous spaces. And the first thing her husband did upon moving in was build a display honoring their son, who passed away in 2010.

“He played football for Carver High School,” she said. “They retired his jersey.”

Before entering the Habitat program, the Walton family–like many in the New Orleans area–were paying $1,200 a month in rent, meaning there was little left over at the end of each month. Eventually, unable to find an affordable place, they moved in with Danielle’s mother, with Danielle and her husband sleeping in the laundry room.

“I learned about the [Habitat program] on social media, then I went to an outreach event,” she said. “What got my interest was the words ‘no-interest.'”

Their home is a three-bedroom on the West Bank in Harvey. Not only is there a no-interest mortgage, the monthly payment is less than a third of the family’s income. It includes the mortgage payment, homeowner and flood insurance, and an annual termite contract (a necessity in the New Orleans area). Because of the lower monthly payment, her family is now able to build up their savings. They now have stability and security they did no thave before. It’s not something she expected.

“I was really doubtful,” she said. “I thought, ‘I ain’t never buying a house. I’m just gonna rent forever.’ I never thought I would ever be a homeowner.”

Now, she tells everyone they should become a homeowner. “Go ahead and do it, because from my experience, I was doubtful. But it’s best to be a homeowner. If you count all your coin that you pay in rent, you could pay for something that you’re going to own one day. Invest your money in something that’s worth your while.”