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Finally, a safe, decent home

The Bell family and their need for decent, affordable housing is just one reason why we are building in Pensacola
By Julie Gurnon

 


Juvannua, Jaylen and Jared Bell ©Habitat for Humanity/Steffan Hacker

 


The Bells meet
U.S. Congressman Jeff Miller, who represents Florida’s 1st district ©Habitat for Humanity/Steffan Hacker

   

When Juvannua Bell and her children move into their Habitat home later this year, it will be for the last time.

For nine years, Bell, has been searching for a safe, decent, affordable rental unit for her and her children—daughter Jasmine, now 19, and sons Jared, 15, Christopher, 14, and Jaylen, 11. She never did find it.

“It was either about affordability or living conditions,” said Bell, standing with her two youngest sons near her future home, where AmeriCorps members were busy framing. “In one place, an electrical socket caught on fire, and the landlord called his father to fix it. You reach that point when you say, ‘OK, I got to go; enough is enough.’”

Things weren’t always like this. When her children were younger, Bell was married and the family lived in Mobile, Alabama. The couple had bought a house, and Bell earned a good salary working in human resources.

That changed when her husband was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. With young children and an ailing husband to care for, Bell needed help, and the family had to move.

The search for affordable housing began after her husband died in 2003.

“Our lease was always due for renewal in January, so every November and December, I would begin to worry,” Bell said. “I’d spend every Thanksgiving or Christmas asking myself: Should I stay or should I move?”

Throughout the years, Bell never lost faith, praying that God would bless the family with four walls.

She had heard about Habitat from a co-worker, but it was a call from Jared’s teacher, concerned about another move and its effect on him, that pushed her to apply for a home.

The news they had been accepted into the program was the answer to their prayers.

“Now I can afford to live in a nice home and feed my kids,” Bell said. “I’m going from paying $750 a month for rent to $600 a month for a mortgage payment.”

As for Jared, now in ninth grade, he already knows what college he wants to attend.

“FAMU,” he replies quickly when asked. That stands for the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee, Florida.

Now that they won’t be moving again, he’ll be able to focus all his energy on getting there.