DeVonne learned early on the value of home ownership. Her grandmother purchased one of the first houses from Charleston Habitat for Humanity in the early ‘90s, and DeVonne spent her youth visiting. “I never thought about being in the program myself,” she says.
That was until a couple of years ago. DeVonne was living in poorly maintained public housing with her two daughters, Ashlyn, now 14 and Gabriela, now 4, when her aunt suggested she apply. With a steady job, initiative, and willingness to partner, she was the perfect candidate.
DeVonne is not just an aspiring homeowner; she’s a voracious student of the process. After taking the required financial management classes, DeVonne created a budget and began disputing errors on her credit report, bringing her lunch to work, and saving nearly $100-a-week.
She’s also a budding home builder, taking home construction tips that she learns on-site, while helping her future neighbors build their houses. With her newfound skills, DeVonne intends to complete some home repairs on her mother’s house.
For now, DeVonne is fulfilling her sweat equity hours – the 500 hours of hands-on work she must do to establish her partnership with Charleston Habitat. She is in line to purchase a house in the Joppa Way neighborhood of North Charleston.
For DeVonne, being part of the Habitat family has been as much fun as dreaming about owning her own home. “Habitat prepares you for the beginning, middle, and end,” she says. “They want you to be a home owner and stay a homeowner. It’s a lot of sacrifice but it’s worth it. I’m eager to get my house but will be patient because God knows what’s right.”
DeVonne does medical billing for Roper St. Francis Healthcare. She and her children are currently living with her mother, for which she is grateful, but also realizes it’s temporary until their new home is completed. She wants to show her daughters that they can be home owners and give them a backyard to play in.
One part of home ownership makes DeVonne very anxious: her kids will want pets. A house with a backyard is a great place for a dog or cat, but DeVonne is petrified of domesticated animals. She even steers clear of the neighborhood feline, nicknamed “Habicat” by volunteers, who cuddles up to the building crew during lunch breaks.
But that’s a small price to pay, she says as she smiles, for owning her own home.
Asked what she will do when Habitat hands her the keys to her new home, she says, “I will sleep in the house that first night.”
When Prayonda was 10 years old she and her four sisters would play at owning their own home, picking the kitchens, bedrooms and living rooms of their dreams out of catalogs. Now 39, she is about to realize that dream.
Prayonda attempted two decades ago to buy a house for her growing family. She had the money for a downpayment, but not the credit for a mortgage. When her friend Veta mentioned in 2015 that she had qualified to buy a house from Charleston Habitat, Prayonda tried again.
This time, the financial management classes required of all Habitat home buyers helped Prayonda develop good credit. She says she monitors her spending better and never exceeds 30% of her available credit.
During the winter, spring, summer and fall of 2016, Prayonda could be found in her purple shirt and warm smile, building her neighbors’ houses at the Charleston Habitat construction sites in the Joppa Way neighborhood of North Charleston. Prayonda is earning 500 hours of sweat equity in order to purchase a Habitat house. One of the houses she helped build was sponsored by First (Scots) Prebyterian Church and purchased by Prayonda’s friend Veta.
“Sweat equity helps you realize what goes into building your house and makes you appreciate it more,” she said. “I like to create that community bond.”
Learning construction sits well with Prayonda. She says she didn’t realize that shingling a roof and putting up siding were so easy, and might make those repairs herself when the need arises.
The idea of ownership is important to this family, which includes Jason (24), QuaNila (17), QuaMaryah (6), and Joshua (2). The girls, QuaNila and QuaMaryah, can’t wait to get their own house with a fenced-in yard. “The girls want a dog so yes, we’re getting a pet,” laughs Prayonda.
When her house is finally built, Prayonda plans to have her pastor from Harvest Pointe Church of Christ bless it “so there are no evil spirits.” Then she’s going to do something she’s always wanted to do. “I want to take up sewing,” she said. “And now I’ll have the room