My name is Akeesha but most people call me the House Lady. I am sharing my story in the hopes that I can help multiple people at the same time. I believe the internet is the most practical and logical way to convey a message to the masses. This story is about real estate and how I won by house back from foreclosure. I hope this information saves someone else the time and energy that I lost fooling around with this foreclosure epidemic. It almost got me, but I refused to give up and I won. Although I am not so much an emotional person, I must share what gave me the courage and strength to fight back. I consider myself more of a free spirit, not a fighter, I simply had no choice. I moved forward without the assistance of an attorney, housing advocate, support or any other logical back up plan. It was do or die, sink or swim and I could not afford to make any excuses, I had to get my house back.
I bought my first house when I was 22 years old. Basically, I became a homeowner by default because It had taken me so long to find a landlord to rent to me. I don’t blame them though. I was 19 years old with two small children,1 and 2 yrs. old already on welfare and living at West Side Catholic Women’s Shelter, a homeless shelter for woman and children in Cleveland, Ohio. For many reasons, I found myself and now, two young beautiful little girls, homeless and calling shelters needing a shelter bed for one adult and two children.
Cleveland is a big city, I called shelter after shelter looking for a space for me and my kids to stay. It took weeks. Finally, I was able to secure a bed for me and the girls. Once I was admitted to the shelter, I was given a case manager, Pearl. She was and is still is a gem, she taught me so much. But she was also hard as hell and wouldn’t accept any excuses and pushed me to do and be a better mom to my girls, regardless of how I old I was at the time. Being 19 years old was absolutely no reason for me not to be the best. As part of the shelter guidelines and rules, we had house rules, a curfew and I had to work with a case manager to create an exit strategy to find housing. Pearl and I made a case plan. I had steps and goals that needed to be completed if I wanted to get on my feet and make a life for us. It was a huge change. Prior to living at the shelter, I had basically no rules, from anyone. I used my own moral compass to make decisions, judgments, and choices. Some were good, and some were bad. The rules of the shelter were basic “golden” rules; do unto me as I do unto you type rules, that was easy, but they also had a 6 pm curfew, that was not easy. It was harsh, especially for me. I was young, cute and had a lot of energy. Unfortunately, my life and surroundings reminded me that I wasn’t that cute or young or energic, I was homeless and had a curfew or we would be on the street. That thought definitely killed my vibe for sure. Life, you gotta love it or at least deal with it. Moving right along……
I was now a young woman living with people I didn’t know and now having to be inside at 6 pm every day, or I lose my bed space for me and the girls. I had had a birthday while staying at the shelter and was now 20 years old and felt about as worthless as a used emery board. WTF. I most certainly got written up for coming in late a couple of times, but really, 6 pm? I know I was homeless but dam. Ok.
They also a productivity rule, everyone had to leave the shelter every afternoon, except Sundays from 1pm-4pm. That time was supposed to be for the shelter residents to get out, job hunt, look for housing, find an opportunity and things of that nature. Most people visited family or went to the parks. It did not matter if you didn’t have anywhere to go, you still had to do something and go someplace. I had no support, no car, no place, no purpose yet. I would strap one daughter to my back in a baby carrier and my other daughter in a stroller that had been donated to me, kids in the buggy and I was out. Mostly we walked to the libraries and parks. Just me and the girls, Diana Ross and the Supremes.
I really had no friends that could relate or understand the situation I was in. Broke, homeless, two small kids, and in a shelter, yeah, that basically limits our conservations…not very interesting. That left me with a lot of time to think. About everything and especially how I came to be homeless with two kids and no support. I was beyond perplexed and wondered what God could be doing and what had I done to deserve this as my start in life. I had dreams as a child, and this was not it. This was more like a movie that someone was filming on an old video recorder and no one got paid. Bad, bad movie. If felt like a never-ending nightmare that I could not wake up from. It was all bad.
Life goes on and my new cheerleader Pearl had big plans for me. She saw things for me and the girls that I could not imagine, let alone see. Pearl was twice my age, had tons of life experience and fancy nails that she got done religiously every two weeks. She was one street smart, classy lady. Not a mushy person, but by far still very maternal and straight forward in the most direct way, making the words that she spoke to feel like a mix of your mamma, auntie and grandma saying it at all once with Al Green in the background sitting in the wicker chair. Please pass the greens. Crazy. When she talked, I listened.
As part of my case plan, I Initially had three goals that would lead me to secure permanent housing. The first goal was to get my GED. I was a smart girl but I had stopped going to school when I got pregnant with my second daughter, I was in the 11 th grade. Although my family was big, and I was the oldest of six children, I felt very much alone and had no support. My family was so chaotic, dangerous and unhealthy that I left home. By 18 yrs. old I had taken my then 1-year old daughter and moved in with my high school sweetheart and his mom Bobby. Bobby was a sweet lady, funny as hell and loved her dog, Nicky. She allowed me to come live with her and her two sons. When I left home, I no longer had childcare for my daughter and no way to school, so I dropped out. As I look back, that move was a great example of adding fuel to the fire. But at 18years old, I really didn’t know what I was doing. Even though I wasn’t in school anymore, I read everything and anything I could get my hands on. I loved reading. It was like a mini escape from the problems I was having. All that reading helped me in the long run. I loved learning and had made good grades up until then, school just wasn’t an option for me at the time. When I went to take the GED test, I passed all parts of the exam the first time I took it, except the math. I took me two more times after that, but I finally passed it. Goal one was accomplished. Next.
The second goal was to pay down my debts and raise my credit score. Pearl instructed me to call and order my credit report. We reviewed the report, made a budget, got the current amounts and we worked it from there, paying small amounts at a consistent rate, eventually paying everything off. Although I was homeless, I had income from government assistance, just not enough for my future. I also had to save the rest of my monthly income and deposit it into a saving account I had opened as part as my case plan as well. I probably kept $75 a month for small things I might have needed. Pearl was not playing with me and made sure I knew it. I also picked out furniture and put it on lay-away, so I could be prepared when I did get a place, we literally only had what was on our shelter dressers, that was it.
In the interim of looking for housing and staying busy with all the classes and programs the shelter offered its residents, we also applied for Section 8. I wanted to move out and attend classes at Tri-C, a local city college and not be the loser if felt I was at that time. Before it was called Section 8, it was known as Horizons for the Homeless and my housing voucher was approved within the first three months. I was super-duper happy. In my mind, this homeless stage could kiss my ass, pucker up. I’m outta here.
Little did I know, even though I had a housing voucher that now stated that Section 8 would pay my rent, someone still had to allow me to rent from them. No one would. I went to the house after house after house. I called landlords and did rental applications daily. I could not get anyone to take a chance and rent to me, even with my section 8 voucher. This went on for months. In the landlord’s defense, I was 100% a statistic, I understand that now but at that time, I just needed a chance and a home. I was a young homeless, single, section 8 mother of two small kids. Not very attractive might I say. At that point, I decided to get some Chapstick because Cleary, I was the one that would kiss a little ass here. I decided to pucker up myself.
It took months and months to finally get a person to accept me as their tenant. During this eleven months wait period, I purchased a small car, saved a couple of thousand dollars and had paid off all my layaway of furniture for us when we move into our own place. I met a woman who had a single-family home who agreed to section 8 her property and allow me to use my voucher there. Finally, after eleven months of homelessness, I was moving into my own place. I was on cloud nine. I had everything I needed and felt I had gotten smarter and wiser in those eleven months. I also had Pearl and she was a constant in my life after that, a mix between “How are the kids?” and “Don’t make me slap your brains out!” type of thing. It worked for me because that’s what I needed. Besides being basically haunted by thoughts of Pearls nails ripping my brains out, it was a good relationship. I’ll pass on those fancy nails though….
I loved the house that I was renting but I knew it wasn’t mine. I wanted my own home and the security of knowing that I will never be homeless again. I thought maybe I could buy a home. I had a job and decent credit, what did I have to lose?
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