First Generation Homeownership

February 6, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Rhea Blue Arm has called Little Earth United Tribes (LEUT) her home for over 20 years. During that time she has watched LEUT undergo changes from her apartments on both “The Big Side” and “The Little Side” of Cedar Avenue (LEUT resident’s nicknames to differentiate between the apartment buildings on either side of Cedar Avenue) in which she was raising her five children. As a result of Rhea’s long-term residency at LEUT and her consistent employment history, she was approached directly by LEUT at the onset of the planning for the Little Earth Homeownership Initiative (LEHI) as a strong candidate for homeownership. Rhea was receptive to the idea of homeownership at LEUT because “I love Little Earth. I really do.” Rhea says, “Little Earth isn’t a bad place it just has a negative reputation because people only hear about the bad stuff. For the longest time we didn’t lock our doors because we felt safe with our neighbors and because there is a strong sense of community. “

Almost six years later, after continued efforts to improve her credit score and pay down debt, Rhea closed on the remodeled two-story home, much to the relief of her children who were key stakeholders in choosing the home Rhea would purchase. “I had my eye on this house from the very beginning, but my significant other wanted a new build, so we let the kids’ decide.” The children also had a front-row seat while their home underwent extensive rehab work (their apartment was directly across the street from the construction area). In fact, not disappointing her kids was one of the motivating factors for Rhea not giving up when the process became challenging or frustrating. “There were a lot of starts and stops due to external factors. My file was passed around the credit counseling center quite a bit because the organization restructured and employees left.” Eventually Rhea found her way to working with Woodlands National Bank and from there she was able to complete the necessary application process and obtain her mortgage pre-approval letter.

When asked how she feels about owning her own home Rhea responds quickly with “At first I didn’t like it. When I first moved in I felt very isolated from the [LEUT] community. We sit in the backyard and don’t hear anything. It’s so quiet.” Another feature of homeownership that Rhea did not anticipate were the insects that would share her backyard. From spiders of various shapes and sizes to grasshoppers, ants, and worms, Rhea has been exposed rather quickly to living nearer to nature. Rhea makes no excuses about being a product of an urban upbringing, however, this increased exposure to nature – while different – is not unwelcome. For instance, shortly after moving in to her home Rhea attempted her first garden with moderate success. Now Rhea confidently declares “I’m finally happy. I’m not stressed or worried about my kids and family. I’m ok. I feel good.”

So what is next for Rhea now that she has achieved her goal of homeownership? “I can speak up about what’s going on in our [LEUT] community and be a positive influence for future LEHI candidates to let them know it is possible. No one in my family has ever owned a home, so I at least want to inspire my kids for homeownership.”

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