Courtesy Teresa Herbert
One day, nearly a year after Teresa Herbert and her son, Jesse, moved into their new Habitat home in Harford County, Maryland, he suddenly began packing all his toys into a box.
Jesse, who is autistic and has Down syndrome, doesn’t speak. But his mother knew what he was thinking: “It’s been about a year; it must be time to move.”
Jesse’s life up to that point had been punctuated by moves, beginning with his family’s eviction from their apartment when he was less than a year old. Now, though — after years of living on the margins, years of wondering where they would end up next — Herbert could tell her son that he would always have a place to live.
The newfound stability has produced great changes in Jesse, who is now 9. He no longer hides under the table when other children are around. He is learning to ride a bike. And his communication skills are improving; he and his mother used a special software program that marries pictures with words to create this wonderful letter to Habitat CEO Jonathan Reckford.
Teresa works hard in what she calls “a race against time” to have finances in place for Jesse’s future. Now that she can afford a stable home for him, she has returned to school with that goal in mind.
She is happiest about what the house means for Jesse’s long-term prospects. “The biggest challenge for an adult with a developmental disability is housing,” she says. “I can leave him this house. This is going to enable my son to never have to worry about where he’s going. He will not need to be at the mercy of anyone. He will have a home.”