It was exactly one year ago, in April 2010, when
Maurice Johnson applied to be a homeowner with Knoxville Habitat for Humanity.
On April 9, 2011, he will raise the walls on the new home he is building in
partnership with The University of Tennessee Interfraternity and Panhellenic
Councils as part of Habitat’s 2011 multi-house blitz build.
As a single father, Maurice’s motivation to apply to
Habitat was to have a place of his own to share with his two children, daughter
Heaven (5), and son Ja’den (4), both of whom he has primary custody.
Maurice and his kids have been living with
Maurice’s mom in her 3-bedroom apartment on Washington Pike. It’s an arrangement
that has worked well because she could help care for Heaven and Ja’den while
Maurice adjusted to being a full-time dad and working more than 40 hours a week
at Ifco Systems in Knoxville.
“It gets stressful, but you adjust to it after
awhile,” said Maurice. “The only thing I can do is just pray about it. He’ll
see me through.”
Maurice almost didn’t apply to Habitat because he
thought he made too much money to meet the income guidelines. His mom encouraged
him to apply anyway because she knew Habitat for Humanity would be a good path
to home ownership for him. He applied and was accepted.
Once Maurice began his yearlong “Fi$cal Therapy”
budgeting class that Knoxville Habitat for Humanity requires of its future
homeowners, he decided to take a second job at O’Charley’s working 25 hours a week
to help pay down his debt more aggressively. Since then, he has paid off three
loans in the past year and will finish his only remaining loan by this summer.
“I’ve really learned how to budget and I’ve got
$500 in my savings account,” said Maurice. “Every time I get paid I make sure I
put $50 in savings.”
Through his participation in classes on budgeting,
construction, and being a first-time homeowner, Maurice amassed 250 sweat
equity hours, which put him in a position to select the location of his new
home from a list of available properties. He opted for Knoxville Habitat for
Humanity’s newest subdivision, Silver Leaf, because of his strong ties to that
part of the city that make it feel like home.
“My father lived in the area (where Silver Leaf is)
and I have friends who are over there,” said Maurice. His children will
continue to attend Sarah
A 2001 graduate of Austin-East High School,
Maurice is looking forward to the completion of his new home and move-in day.
“I’ll be the first among my friends to own a house,”
he said. “It’s going to change my life a lot. It’ll be my first time in my own
place with my two kids.”