Becoming a Homeowner: A Decade in the Making

When Debra Lee first heard about LUCHA, she was initially skeptical that an organization could help her, a single mother, get rid of her debt and one day own her own home. Nearly 11 years after she first attended a First Time Homebuying Workshop, Debra’s life is a testament to the transformative power of perseverance and hard work. Today, Debra lives joyfully in the Beverly neighborhood on the South side having been a homeowner for 3 years after renting her entire life. With 2 bedrooms, one for herself and the other for her adult son who lives with a disability, Debra enjoys her warm neighbors and the beautiful flowers that line her backyard. It didn’t come easy; it took more than a decade to reduce her debt, an elongated search for the right home, and one-on-one counseling from LUCHA staff.

When Debra attended a First Time Homebuying Workshop in 2007, she was eager to live in her own home, but the debt she carried was a major obstacle. Deciding against taking on a mortgage with her outstanding debt, which would likely lead to foreclosure, Lee set aside the dream of being of homeowner for the time being. When she returned to LUCHA in 2014, she worked with the LUCHA staff and the City of Chicago tirelessly to see if something could be done, and in May of 2014, Debra’s debt was reduced down to $300, a more than manageable amount, which reenergized her to search for a home. She hoped it wouldn’t take too long as her family looked forward to owning their own home.

“One of the biggest challenges was finding a home with my budget. I was looking for the right neighborhood, and was searching for something with 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms because I live with my son,” remarked Debra. While still living with her son in an apartment, the same apartment for the past 17 years, she searched for nearly a year to find a home that fit her needs. When she did, additional obstacles stood in the way as logistical and contractual hiccups with the attorneys and realtor delayed the process an additional month.

After more than a decade of waiting, hoping, and searching tirelessly, closing day arrived on June 8th, 2015. She was grateful that LUCHA Law Project Manager Ana Margarita Irizarry, was present to assist with the closing. Prior to finalizing the paperwork, the daughter of the previous homeowner turned to Debra and said, “This is your home.” This moment made the long journey worth it all.

Debra is known around her new neighborhood for sweeping the sidewalk up and down her block. Neighbors repay her with dinner invites and occasionally surprise her by mowing her lawn. Three years later, Debra stands on her front porch and looks proudly up and down her block – there’s no place like home.

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