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United States: Uphill Climb -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

United States: Uphill Climb


Christine VanderWerf (left)


Christine VanderWerf grew up in Missouri and ran away from home at 16. Soon after, she found herself pregnant, alone and without the support she believed necessary to raise a child.

Making the decision to give the baby up for adoption in part because she could not provide a home, Christine moved to Alaska.

Once there, she began a relationship, but it was troubled. The couple moved to Seattle and had a baby, spending a few years “functioning somewhat,” she says. But as their son grew, the marriage fell apart, and, says Christine, her substance abuse grew as well.

“I experienced some levels of homelessness and transitional housing, and having no future,” she says.

Wrapping herself in a blanket of support services, Christine began the uphill climb to stability. With plenty of resolve but also a spotty job history and a record, housing was a particular challenge. A room in a transitional housing facility, surrounded by people who encouraged her success, was a turning point, and she then built confidence living on her own in a studio apartment.

Next came several years in a Seattle Housing Authority apartment. This apartment was a definite improvement over homelessness, but it was not without its own challenges; after problems caused by its age and deterioration, the building was slated for redevelopment.

Steady employment brought a measure of financial security, and Christine applied to become a homeowner with Habitat Seattle/South King County. Nearly two decades of piecemeal, temporary housing arrangements came to an end this fall.