Simone was nine. Ever since her mom, Betty, had gotten a divorce, they had been moving frequently in search of an affordable place to stay. Moving meant Simone and her older sister had to transfer to different schools. And it meant they often lived in cramped apartments with family.
“My sister and I shared a room, we shared a bed, we shared practically everything,” Simone says.
It didn’t feel stable.
When Betty found Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, she called it a blessing.
Betty saved up to pay her affordable mortgage. And she worked alongside volunteers to rehabilitate a North Minneapolis house into her very own home. Simone and her sister even chipped in where they could.
“It’s not just a house that we moved into—we put work into the house, so that makes it a little more special,” Simone says. “We were instrumental in the process.”
Once they were moved into their Habitat home, the stability fell into place. Simone and her sister stayed in the same school, which helped them build friendships and thrive in their studies. Their home became a place for the community to gather, too.
“It was the place that me and my friends went to,” Simone says. “I spent 90% of my time (when I wasn’t in school) at home. Knowing that other people wanted to come there felt good. ‘Where are we going? I’m going to Simone’s house!’ friends would say. There was pride in that—like, this is home, it’s my home, and people like to come here.”
Simone went to college at St. Olaf—first for music, then switching to Social Work. She took some time off when she had her two oldest children, and she was able to raise them at her mom’s home.
“No matter where I went or how far I strayed,” Simone remembers, “I always had a home to go back to. If things don’t go well, I feel like I always have a place to go. And my kids do too.”
Simone went on to earn her Master’s Degree in Social Work from Augsburg in Minneapolis. She added on an MBA, and a real estate license. Over the years she’s had several jobs she’s loved, and currently works for Hennepin County doing assessments for kids with disabilities.
On top of her successful career, Simone is raising her four kids with the same firm foundation she had growing up in mom’s Habitat home.
“When I became a mom, my goal was to give my kids at the very least what I had, with the hope that I could give them more,” Simone says. “I just always knew I was going to find a home and be a homeowner and provide for them what my mom provided for me.”
After seeing her mom buy and pay off her Habitat home, Simone carefully saved and planned for years. Finally, she bought a home of her own. Her sister, Lynnisha, bought her own home too. They all stayed in the North Minneapolis community that gave so much to them growing up. Now, they’re giving back.
As a social worker, Simone sees a lot of families living in unhealthy or unsafe apartments. She sees kids with learning disabilities, asthma,—apartments with lead paint, mold. Landlords might be unresponsive, and when a family can’t afford a better place, problems go untreated.
Across the Twin Cities, rents keep going up and up while wages stay flat. Each year, families pay more and more of their income just to have a roof over their heads. People of color are hit especially hard after decades of systemic racism in lending practices and the housing market.
Safe, stable, affordable homeownership can go a long way toward solving some of these problems. Simone knows that firsthand.
“I’m a social worker so I know about the need that’s out there,” Simone says. “Habitat is a special program. We know that when people have a stable place to go, it’s a foundation for success.”
That success can last for generations. And successful homeowners strengthen communities.
“I think the more people that you have that are happy and rallying and want the same things – want to see their kids happy and healthy and educated – nothing but good things can come out of that.”
Nothing but good things—that’s something we can all agree on.