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It belongs to us

Africa Locke, a native of Mobile, has worked for years as a senior programmer at a health care software company. Raising her two children alone, though, made homeownership a distant dream.

 

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In 2008, Africa Locke was among 31 people who partnered with HFH Mobile County for the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project.

After Hurricane Katrina, a tremendous influx of evacuees from Louisiana and Mississippi exacerbated an existing shortage of affordable rental housing. Locke saw her rent increase from $500 to $800 in an area that was so sketchy, she never let her kids play outside.

In 2008, Locke was among 31 people who partnered with Habitat for Humanity in Mobile County for the annual Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project. The former president and first lady, in fact, helped build Locke’s house, hammering and painting alongside volunteers from all over the world.

Now Locke’s mortgage payment is less than half what she was paying in rent after Katrina.

“And it’s all ours,” she said, smiling. “It belongs to us.”

LaDonna, 13, and Jaylen, 10, play outside freely now, surrounded by friends who live on their cul de sac in the west Mobile community called Hillsborough. LaDonna is a first-year cheerleader in the seventh grade and also a member of the volleyball team. When she grows up, she wants to be either a model or a chef. Her little brother plays basketball but enjoys reading in his spare time. He aims to be a professional wrestler.

“I brought them by every day while the house was being built,” Locke said.

The children don’t yet understand the real difference between renting and owning a home, their mom said, or fully grasp how special it is to live in a house that was built with the help of a former president and first lady.

But they know what it means to have a home.