Ronnette Owens plans to leave Annapolis, the city where she was born and has lived all her life, to make a better life for herself and her three children. In a few short months, Ronnette and her young family will move to Baltimore City in pursuit of a dream she has been working toward for several years—the dream of homeownership. Through her partnership with Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake and the 2012 Women Build, Ronnette will become a first-time homeowner—and the first woman in generations of her family to own her own home. “I wanted to have something we could call our own,” Ronnette explains the vision for her family that has motivated her along the way.
It was her children’s great grandmother who first encouraged Ronnette to approach Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake about owning a home. She filled out an application and was accepted into the program. “In the [homebuyer education] classes I learned about budgets and credit repair. These are things everyone should know.” Ronnette traveled to Baltimore to be part of the classes and she did most of her “sweat equity” volunteering in Brooklyn. “My mother and my brother helped me work on houses in Brooklyn. My whole family is really proud of me.”
Ronnette’s children have been part of the Habitat experience as well. Her daughters Malaya and Makia and son Malik have participated in Youth Service Saturdays at Habitat and Ronnette has taken them to all of the various neighborhoods where Habitat is building houses. “You have to put in the effort. We drove to the different communities, and their excitement grew more and more as they saw how houses move from one stage to another.”
At present, Ronnette and her children share a three-bedroom apartment in the Robinwood public housing community in Annapolis. “The girls are doubled up and there is no air conditioning.” Two of Ronnette’s children have asthma and close quarters without air conditioning can make summers difficult. Last summer, Ronnette was able to put air conditioning in the living room and her bedroom, where the family would camp out on very hot summer nights. “We prayed every night that we would have our own home. The children are very excited to know that they will have their own rooms.”
Now that Ronnette knows that she and her children will be moving to a new home in Orchard Ridge through the Women Build project, the family has started talking about what life will be like. “It’s a little scary and different to be in a new city, but my oldest daughter has already told me that she is good at making new friends.” Ronnette wonders aloud whether her children will really notice the difference between renting and owning. “Will they understand the idea that ‘this is mine. I worked for this.’ Will they recognize that a goal has been achieved?”
Ronnette sees this house as a new start, a fresh start for herself and for her children. Her sense of accomplishment is clear and it inspires her to look to new opportunities. “I want my girls, and my son, but especially my girls, to know that there is a way to have what you want if you are willing to work for it.” She explains that she is very appreciative of the Habitat experience, which has given her the chance to show her children that it is important to respect people and to help people. “Habitat is about helping people.” Hard work, patience, and the willingness to be an active partner — Ronnette exemplifies these traits of the ideal family partner. And she has secured the dream of homeownership for herself and her children. Now the sky is the limit. “I look forward to showing my daughters and my son that everything you want to do – just try and do it!”