Calesha Flores: Breaking a Generational Curse
The nomadic lifestyle of growing up with parents in the military, and no real sense of “home,” seems to have followed Calesha into adulthood as a mom of two daughters. After a job transfer from Ohio to Tampa, she got hurt and had to depend on a short-term disability of half her income until she could work again. Then, her rent DOUBLED, and she didn’t know what to do. What she did was move her girls to Orlando at a friend’s invitation, quickly realizing the friend did not own the home but was sharing with multiple people who didn’t want Calesha and her daughters there. In August 2022, the car became their home, with just a sporadic night in a hotel. Thankfully, a teacher referred them to a church, which referred them to a shelter. They at last had a room, hot meals, and support. Calesha worked onsite and received training to help her get back into the workforce, which she did! She now works hard in internet technical support and is thrilled to do so! Calesha applied to Habitat. She was denied at first, as she hadn’t been in her job long enough; but a fire started in her to buy a house and break a “generational curse” of moving often and renting. She and her girls agreed to “do this as a family,” save money, and live in the shelter until they could buy their own home. When Calesha reapplied to us, she was accepted. Their Habitat journey has truly been a family project. Her daughters have earned sweat equity hours by volunteering at the shelter and their grades are better than ever. Recently, they were excited to help choose the lot and colors for their future home. “It’s not really me doing it,” Calesha says. “It’s we!” When the family learned theirs would be a Women Build 2024 home, they were thrilled. The fact that groups of women will raise money for and construct their home is a great model for the girls; and mom can’t wait to work alongside the teams. Talk about women supporting women. With the support and all Calesha is learning about maintaining a house and managing finances, she is more than grateful for the opportunity. “It’s a hand up. It’s hard work,” she says. “You will work harder than you thought. Just don’t give up. It’s worth it!”
Devora Slaughter: It's a Family Affair
“Mom, when are we going to stop moving?” asks Devora’s 12-year-old son. “We’re moving every year!” Devora has tried to explain to her three children that she can only rent where she can afford. Unfortunately, those places have been full of mold…and even bats! Trying to escape those unhealthy environments, as well as the rising rents, has led to constant moves. She has not escaped, though. She’s now paying a whopping $2,045 per month for a three-bedroom unit with mold. When Devora moved to Orlando in 2020, wanting to get her children out of Miami and leave an unhealthy family situation, she rented a house and found a job. With dreams of homeownership, she first applied to Habitat in 2021. As she didn’t meet the financial criteria, she was denied. Still determined, she took our Financial Academy classes and found the higher-paying position she has today as a custodian at a medical facility. She also improved her credit score and began to save money. Getting a raise within her first six months on the job, quarterly bonuses for a job well done, and working extra hours, sure helps in that regard! With her homeownership dream fueled by stark memories of living in a Miami shelter with her kids, Devora reapplied to Habitat. She was accepted in our Homebuyers Program in May 2023 and began her sweat equity hours. Emergency surgery stopped her short in July, with a three- month hiatus from work, and she credits the Habitat team and her kids for encouraging her not to give up. Devora’s children not only inspire her, but the two older ones have helped earn sweat equity hours by laying sod, painting, working community hours, and getting A grades. “It’s a family affair,” she says. “They are happy. Finally, we won’t have to move anymore!” The fact her future home is being built by Women Build 24 teams thrills Devora to no end! She can’t wait to meet and work alongside everyone, as her job allows, and wanted to make sure it wasn’t too early to tell you… “I want to thank the Women Builders ahead of time for everything!”
Meet Sandra Smith – Grandma with a Goal!
Sandra left South Florida and her marriage about eight years ago and moved to Orlando. Things were going well until the daycare where she worked closed, her rent more-than-doubled, and her car became undrivable. Her only recourse was to live with a colleague and depend on a friend to drive her back and forth to the two part-time daycare jobs she found. That started her unstable living situation of renting rooms in other people’s homes. Sandra was able to save money and build her credit score, with the goal of buying a home. But when she sought mortgage approval on the conventional market, the loan amount her income allowed would only buy an “awful” house that would “set me her up for problems!” Happily, she was hired as an Orange County Public School substitute teacher at Apopka High School and learned about Habitat Seminole-Apopka from a coworker. She applied to our Homebuyers Program, was accepted, and began her sweat equity hours. She took our Financial Academy, in addition to her mandatory classes, worked on houses, helped at a food bank, and did everything she was required to do. Sandra is a true example that, “Things happen for a reason.” Originally choosing a lot in Apopka for her home, permitting issues delayed the start of construction. Understanding her frustration, staff offered her the choice of several sites in Sanford. Hearing an address on Holly Avenue, she immediately fell in love with the name. Sight-unseen Sandra said, “That’s the one I want!” And this is the home Sandra is thrilled to be buying and into which she’ll be moving her 15-year-old grandson from South Florida to give him a brighter future. She wants him to get a good education in Seminole County and then go to the University of Central Florida for Engineering. “I now feel secure about my grandson’s future. He will always have a place…and me too,” she says. “This is the best thing that could have ever happened! It was worth the wait!”