banner image
Making an investment in humankind -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Making an investment in humankind

Tony and Jill Collins in 1997, with their sons (from left), Christopher, then 7; Jonathan, 4; and Ronald, 12. All three sons are now grown and successful.
Photo courtesy of Habitat for Humanity Metro Jackson

After going from homelessness to homeownership, one man speaks from the heart
By Tony Collins


Local news media were on hand to capture the excitement when Tony and Jill Collins moved their family into their own home in October 1997. Photo courtesy of Habitat for Humanity Metro Jackson


Next: ‘You feel almost worthless’
1 | 2 | NEXT PAGE >


In 1996, my wife and three sons and I were homeless and living in our car in Jackson, Mississippi. We’d have to wash the kids up at the Krystal where my wife worked. Sometimes we felt like the world really didn’t care about us.

Our experience with Habitat for Humanity renewed our faith in people. That’s one of the biggest things I got from Habitat, besides a house: knowing that there is an organization that really has people at its heart. That made a world of difference after all we had been through.

I met Jill in 1988. I was working during the summer in the maintenance department at the Mississippi Employment Security Commission in Jackson, and she was an administrative assistant. I was called to her office to change the light bulb above her desk. We talked for a few minutes, and then she called me later that day and told me to bring her my phone number. We went out that weekend, got married five months later, and we’ve been together ever since — 24 years this December.

Jill had a son before I met her — Ronald, who’s now 27. He works as a baker’s assistant and has his own printing business. Together, Jill and I have Christopher, 22, and Jonathan, 19. Christopher is a customer service rep at the Mississippi University Medical Center, where Jill and I both work as well. Jonathan is in the U.S. Army.

In 1996, we were living in a rental house outside Jackson, and the gentleman who owned the place decided he wanted to rent to someone else and gave us a couple of days to get out. He kind of left us hanging. My employer at the time closed suddenly, and I was out of work, and Jill was working at Krystal. So we had to live in our car for a few months.