“Home is where family goes to celebrate life. A place to gather and cherish memories and create new ones.”
Deb Howard has been an employee of Pinellas County Schools for almost 32 years now, starting in 1989. She works as a Data Management Technician for a private school and previously worked in many positions at Largo High School.
Although she is currently the sole person in her household, Deb is very aware of the struggles of a crowded apartment. There was a time where her son and his family moved into her small apartment, leaving 8 people in a one-bedroom, one-bathroom space. “As they grew older they eventually moved into their own apartments. This is the first time since I was 16-years-old that I’m without the responsibility of having family in my home.”
Deb had a rough start in life, having her son at a young age and dropping out of school due to race issues she experienced. This did not stop her from raising a wonderful family, and still going back to earn her GED and Associates Degree from Pasco Hernando Community College. She graduated with Phi Theta Kappa Honors and was offered a scholarship to attend St. Leo College while still working full-time and raising her son. “When I took my GED, the instructor told me that my scores were so high that I scored as a 4th-year college student. He made me promise to continue my education, and never give up.”
After living in the same apartment complex for 20 years, Deb is ready to follow her new dream of homeownership. “It is not the best, but it was the most affordable housing I could budget for so long. I don’t receive government help, so it’s all up to me. With it being cheap, it does not get the necessary care to maintain a healthy apartment, and I don’t have the greatest neighbors.” Deb has experienced water damage which destroyed the carpet, walls, and kitchen. This has caused severe mold and electrical issues that the landlord won’t take the time to replace. Along with all of this, the area they are in is very dangerous, and crime rids the streets. “My grandkids can never be outside without an adult. It’s not safe, and we are always on edge.”
When accepted into the Habitat program, Deb said, “I cried like I’ve never cried before. I thanked God for helping to guide me to this program, and making it possible. I knew this was just the start, and I wont believe it until the keys are in my hand and the door opens!” Even a broken arm and surgery could not keep Deb from starting her hours through the program. She says she has learned so much through the financial education that the program brings, and has really enjoyed finding new characteristics about herself through time management and conflict resolution classes.
“As I’ve grown older, I was fearful of where I would be in 10 yers. Who would I turn to when the rent was too high for my income or social security? I thought I would have to work for the rest of my life to keep a roof over my head. Now I don’t have that fear anymore, and can have the peace of mind of knowing I will own my own home.”
“Having a home, MY home, will mean that I don’t have to fear of whatever comes. I will be able to save money and invest in better things for myself. I want this foundation to build financial success.”