Homeownership is a big part of The American Dream. At Knoxville Habitat for Humanity, we are a proud partner with individuals and families who are living in substandard housing conditions who want a safe and comfortable place to call home.
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 Moore Green Magnet Technology Academy.
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.”