Tarneisah Whitehead family -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Tarneisah Whitehead family

‘So proud to be a homeowner’


Tarneisha Whitehead and her 12 year-old daughter, Ebony, recently moved from an unsafe apartment to Whitehead’s mother’s house in Anacostia, where they will share a room until construction is finished on their new Habitat home in Ivy City.

©Habitat for Humanity International/Ezra Millstein


Tarneisha Whitehead, 37, recently moved back into her childhood home on Anacostia Avenue in Washington, D.C., where her parents still live. Whitehead and her 12-year-old daughter, Ebony, were eager to leave the apartment complex where they had spent the past decade.

“My car’s been vandalized a couple of times,” Whitehead said. “Even in my building, sometimes when we go in and out, there are people hanging out selling drugs. They put in a security system, where you have to punch in a code. But one guy kicked that in, and now they don’t even secure it anymore.

“Ebony’s getting older,” she added. “It was just time to go. It was time to go.”

Her parents’ house is just a temporary refuge. On Oct. 4, construction begins on a home of their own, as part of the 2010 Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project in Washington’s Ivy City neighborhood.

“To get a piece of the American dream is awesome,” Whitehead said. “I will be so proud to be a homeowner. I just can’t wait. I can’t even wait to do my 300 hours of sweat equity. I cannot wait!”

Whitehead is a patient access associate at Howard University Hospital, while Ebony attends a charter school on campus. The seventh-grader already has a lofty career goal: “I want to be a Supreme Court justice,” she said.

Ebony, who practices tae kwon do in her spare time, is in her school’s high achievement program, which gives good students all the tools they need to get into top colleges. She said she will probably attend D.C.’s own Howard University, where her mother has worked since 2001 and qualifies for free tuition.

“If she gets a scholarship, she can go anywhere,” Whitehead said. “But I tell her, ‘You have to work with me. Howard is free! Other places cost a lot of money.’ We have those conversations all the time.”

For now, Whitehead and Ebony—and their little fuzzy black dog named Nie—will share a room in the parents’ home, living out of boxes until their own house is built. Construction may take up to a year, but they’ve already started picking out paint colors and putting furniture on layaway, paying a little at a time until it’s theirs.

“I’m excited about it all,” Whitehead said. “I’m excited to learn new things, to be a homeowner, to get to know all my neighbors, to buy furniture on layaway. I’m excited about everything.”