The Publication of Habitat for Humanity International | December 2002/January 2003
Making Ends Meet Can Be a Question of Survival

Habitat Mortgage Offers Financial 'Breathing Room' for Ohio Family

Physician and Engineer Battle for Subsistence in Kyrgyzstan

South African Woman Finds Little Left at Month's End

Affordable House Payment Makes the Difference

Field Labor Hardly Pays the Bills for Mexican Family

Housing Hardships Compound Burdens for Russian Family

Indian Family Struggles with Debt Amid an Impoverished Lifestyle

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Behind the Scenes

Taking Measure

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Habitat homeowner Ramona Jaroszyk is pictured here with her daughters Cassaundra, 12, and Tori, 6, in Canton, Ohio. Tragically, Cassaundra was injured in a car accident a few months after this photo was taken, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down. According to her mother, Cassaundra is adjusting well, anticipating her teenage years.
Habitat Mortgage Offers Financial 'Breathing Room' for Ohio Family

A year and a half ago, Ramona Jaroszyk was one of thousands in Canton, Ohio, needing decent shelter. She and her daughters, Cassaundra, 12; and Tori, 6, lived practically on top of one another in the small apartment, whose windows and doors Ramona repeatedly sealed with plastic to stop the constant draft.

After contributing some 500 "sweat-equity" hours building her house and working other tasks at the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate, she now enjoys the affordability, space and comfort of her Habitat house. And her girls enjoy a childhood furnished with added security, stability ... and a backyard to play in.

"Before, in the old apartment, we were always so cramped," Ramona says. "Moving into the new house has been such a big difference. We all love being outside, and we can do that here."

Ramona says she is a "penny saver" who's careful to avoid debt that could burden her family with high interest rates. Through careful budgeting, a zero-interest mortgage payment and her job as a certified medical assistant, she makes ends meet, supplying her daughters what they need each day. She also is able to provide them other advantages, such as Internet access, which supports Cassaundra and Tori in their studies.

For an area where the median house payment approaches $900, Ramona's $238, zero-interest mortgage payment goes a long way to relieve the pressures of a cost-burdened household. Renters in the Greater Canton area can expect to pay $509 for a two-bedroom apartment at market rates, causing a quarter of the area's renting population to spend more than 35 percent of income on a place to live--which exceeds the U.S. government's housing affordability threshold.

Through her Habitat experience, Ramona has escaped such housing hardships. She enjoys stable employment, having worked six years at her job, and expects to grow professionally by returning to school and training for a position as a surgical assistant.

Though the fanfare of moving into their new house rests now on a less spirited plane of family life and daily routine, their contentment has hardly diminished.

"The kids are joyful with the house and have seen some really positive things in the process," Ramona says. "They saw the community come together and learned that Mom can do it without having someone else there; they learned independence.

"It was a struggle, but I did it, and it's just a great opportunity to have something that's your own, something I can call mine. It's a Godsend."

Ramona's is one of nearly 200 houses HFH of Greater Canton has built since its founding in 1988, housing some 625 people, who like Ramona and her daughters, have fashioned a home out of a decent, solid, affordable place to live.

--Shawn Reeves

By the Numbers

A minimum-wage worker in Ohio can afford monthly rent of no more than $268, yet the Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $613. In order to afford such an apartment, this same worker would have to work 92 hours per week.

The Housing Wage in Ohio is $11.79. This is the amount a full-time worker in Ohio must earn per hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment at Fair Market Rent. This Housing Wage is 229 percent of the federal minimum wage.

To find out how your community compares, visit

Source: National Low Income Housing Coalition


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