A home in time for the holidays (Reier & Rhonda)

My name is Reier Hendricks, and I would like to share with you the impact Affordable Homeownership through Habitat for Humanity Edmonton has had on my family. The changes are profound – and I believe the best is yet to come.

When my wife Rhonda and I were married 21 years ago, we had big plans: I was in university studying computer sciences, and we dreamed of having four kids and a good home of our own for them to grow up in.

As we started our family, we began experiencing setbacks to our dreams. My physical health became an issue, which prevented me from completing my education, and I was unable to get the job I needed to support my family. We have had the four kids we dreamed of, three of whom have special needs. Rhonda has been unable to work due to challenges with mental health.

During the first 12 years of our marriage, we lived in many different housing situations. We lived with family members, in co-op housing, and in subsidized housing. Seven years ago, I was able to gain stable employment where my health and physical limitations were no longer an issue. We moved from subsidized housing into a 70-year-old townhome. It was the only place we could afford that fit our family of six. When we moved in, we were told that our home would likely be torn down within five years.

This townhome was an upgrade compared to where we had lived previously. Even still, safety was a major concern. In the six years we lived there, my car was broken into twice, and we were awakened in the night when the police raided our neighbors.

My biggest concern was that we would have to move again and we would not be able to find a home we could afford. My second concern was my ability to keep up with yearly rent increases. My third concern was how small the house was, and sharing one bathroom with three teenagers. Rhonda and I still dreamed constantly about owning a home, but we had nearly given up on this ever becoming a possibility for us.

Two years ago, I received a promotion at work, and Rhonda and I were hopeful that this was the break we needed to become homeowners. I looked into what it would take to buy a home, and worked out the math: if we saved for the next 10 years, we could afford the down payment… as long as rent did not outpace my income… as long as we were not forced to move somewhere more expensive… and as long as my Multiple Sclerosis remained in remission.

It was becoming apparent our dream of homeownership was unlikely to come true.

Throughout our challenges, we have been fortunate to have the support of our family. One day, my father sent us the link to the Habitat for Humanity website. When we applied for Habitat Homeownership, we didn’t believe there was any possibility we would be accepted. However, as we went through each stage of the application process, it kept getting harder to contain our hope.

Then one day we got the phone call: our faith had been rewarded, and we were being given the opportunity to become homeowners!

The day finally came when we took possession of our forever home. As we moved our family in, it was the first home that didn’t feel temporary.

I no longer have to worry about rent outpacing my income. I no longer have to worry about the lack of safety in the neighborhood: if I forget my cell phone in the van, I don’t have to run across a dark parking lot in the middle of the night while looking over my shoulder. I no longer have to worry about someone using the washing machine and the microwave at the same time, rendering the entire house going dark until I run down to the breaker panel. One of the best parts of our home is having three bathrooms, and not having to worry about squeezing four growing kids and two adults into one bathroom.

Rhonda and I are grateful for the changes we have seen in our children. Everyone’s bedrooms are bigger, and our children have their own space to escape from the world when they need it. With the room they’ve been given to grow, they fight less and relax more. Each of them has had the opportunity to make their space their own, rather than just how the furniture fit.

Even though there is more space to do things apart, we’ve found that we are doing more things with each other. Kaitlyn and Alex work on puzzles and have board game nights together. Our younger kids never really had a yard or much opportunity to play outside. Now that we have a great yard, we plan to spend more time outdoors.

From my family to yours, I wish you a happy holiday season. On behalf of Habitat homeowners, I would like to thank you for supporting Habitat for Humanity. Your donation today goes a long way towards providing homeowners with stability and independence, and making our dreams come true.

I still believe the biggest impact our Habitat home will have on our children will be in the long term. We are so grateful to watch our family grow in our new space.

Please donate today in support of Habitat Homeownership.