Camilya is a single mom with a 13 year-old daughter named Serenity. They entered our world at Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity not too long ago when Camilya applied for our homeownership program. It wasn’t long before we got to know her, her daughter, and her incredible determination to make a better way for her family.
Camilya believes in helping people, working hard and moving forward. Not only is Camilya a mom, she works full time as an LPN at a nursing home and recently received her social work degree from Cleveland State University. Still, her dream continues. She intends to earn a master of social work from Case Western Reserve University. If you knew Camilya the way her friends and family do, you would know she will do this.
Camilya grew up in Detroit with her mother. Her mother was her greatest cheerleader, and her arch nemesis. Due to mental health issues and a drug addiction, her mother’s life was incredibly hard. Reflecting on her mom, Camilya shared, “You love people where they are at. You take the meat and leave the bone.” Her mom would say to Camilya, “You never need to be perfect. You want to make me proud? You do better than me.”
One of the reasons Camilya wants to own a home is to honor her mother’s words. She wants to give her daughter more than what she had. Neither of her parents or her siblings own a home. “My father’s father owned his own home. I thought that was big. I want to give that to my daughter. I want to have a house for high school, so she can have stability.”
But it’s not just for high school, it’s for always. Camilya explains that when her daughter goes off to college she wants Serenity to have a place to come home to. She imagines a conversation between Serenity and her future college friend, “Oh, you don’t have a place to go for Thanksgiving? You can come to my house and eat with my family. Come home with me.”
She describes her daughter as a bouquet of wild flowers. “She is kind, considerate, well mannered, and free spirited. She always has a smile. She is like those wildflowers because she is a little bit of everything.” Serenity is good at art, dancing, and singing…not to mention helping.
“Serenity tells everyone we are going to become homeowners.” Camilya explains, “If I am getting something, she is getting it too. She has to have ownership.” Before they moved in, Serenity saved $25 and gave that to her mom for part of the down payment on their home. “My daughter is a hustler. She makes jewelry, she will find jobs. She makes muffins for the volunteers.”
Before Camilya moved into her Habitat home, she was paying over $900 in rent for a 2 bedroom apartment that the landlord neglected. Between that cost and the deep desire to give her daughter more than she had, Camilya started looking for ways to become a homeowner.
After talking with a bank, she learned she needed to fix her credit report. Undaunted, Camilya went about learning how to remove old information, correct information and raise her credit score. After that work, she saw she had raised her score, but was still shy of where a conventional lender would give her a loan. Then, she saw a poster advertising Habitat, and thought she would try that road.
“Habitat is like a seed planted for a tree. All the branches that come from that tree are remarkable. Habitat can break generational curses. This is big.”
Through hard work completing her Sweat Equity volunteer hours, all while working full time, completing school, and raising her daughter, Camilya recently moved into her Habitat for Humanity home. She remains involved with Habitat through volunteering, speaking at events, and even planning a workshop for future Habitat homebuyers focused on decorating and maintaining your house on a budget. “Everything around you should glow and sparkle,” she says. “You can be a Diva on a Dime and don’t have to go in debt.” She’s hoping this can be a test run for future “Dive on a Dime” workshops, another dream of hers.
However, her next goal is assisting her niece with volunteer hours and advice as she makes her way through the Habitat homeownership program. She’s scheduled to move into her home later this year. Talk about breaking generational curses…