For many of us, owning our own home provides the foundation for safety, love, support, and the family bonds that are critical for children to grow into successful and happy adults. For some families in our community though, parents struggle just to keep a roof over their family’s heads. It’s hard for many of us to imagine, but often here in Niagara, parents are forced to choose every month between paying rent or buying groceries.
This was the case for Angela and her two daughters, Emma and Katie, who were living in a 640 square foot all-stick construction apartment above a renovated goat barn. Angela and her daughters had moved three times in two years and the apartment was the best that she could afford. Raising her two girls alone, she couldn’t imagine saving enough money to find them a better home. A leaky roof and no guarantee of running water made it an incredibly stressful living environment for the entire family.
Because of the constant moving, both girls struggled in school – Emma with a disability, which saw her learning at a slower pace than her peers and Katie from anxiety issues that caused her to be on three different kinds of medication.
Angela couldn’t bear to see her children struggling and she was fortunate to connect with Habitat for Humanity Niagara. She became the owner of a safe and affordable home in 2010 through the Habitat program. “I wanted to give the girls a home where we didn’t have to move again and I didn’t have to worry about our living conditions. A place we could build memories and plant roots.”
A few years later, the effect of living in a safe and affordable home has made all the difference. Emma has an active social life and her grades have improved significantly. She is now on a regular course load and working at the same pace as her classmates. Katie has become more social and confident and is actively involved in her youth group AND she no longer needs to take any medication for anxiety.
“The stability of having a home gives you confidence,” says Angela. “Now I can be a better mom to my daughters. I can spend quality time with them without any stress over where we are living. The security of knowing that this is where we can stay, that we don’t have to move again, that I don’t have to worry about a fire, or mold, leaks, or running out of water. For me, knowing my daughters are happy and successful is the best part of owning an affordable home.”
A 2012 study by CMHC shows that Angela’s positive experience with affordable housing isn’t unique:
• 89% say their family life has improved
• 70% report improved health, including reduced colds and flu, allergies, asthma and stress
• 65% report their children’s confidence has improved
• 58% report they are better off financially
• 86% report being happier since moving into an affordable (Habitat) home
Unfortunately, Angela’s story is not the norm. There are more than 10,640 people in Niagara waiting for affordable housing and the list is growing every day. Since 2003, it has increased by 43%.
Affordable housing is a basic human right. Find out more and what you can do to help at www.wipeoutpoverty.ca.