Meeting the Mishers

Ms. Misher at home in her living room.

Ms. Misher at home in her living room.

Ms. Edith Misher has been living in her home near Deanwood for the past four years. She has a dark red door that perfectly matches the wooden floors she has had installed and the new furniture she has purchased for her house over the years. Among other improvements Ms. Misher has made are newly installed carpet on the second floor, a new fence for her backyard, and a shed in which she keeps her tools. The improvements have given her house the look and feel of a model home, and it is clear Ms. Misher cares greatly about her home and neighborhood.

Can renters care about a home as much? Prior to becoming a Habitat homeowner, Ms. Misher rented an apartment on Fairmont St. near her job at Howard University. She said she liked renting. “I don’t like paying bills and I don’t like fixing stuff,” she says. Insurance payments and home maintenance are two major aspects of homeownership that are different from renting. However, after four years, Ms. Misher has changed her mind. “My nephew cuts the grass and I use the weed whacker. It’s Ok,” she reflects. She likes her neighbors and participates in community meetings.

The story of how Ms. Misher became a successful homeowner is not heartwarming. In 1998, her son was shot and killed at the door of his house. He left behind a son, Fellonte, whose care Ms. Misher took over following tragic event. Not too long after, Ms. Misher’s sister also passed away from a health condition, and her son, Marchial, also became a resident of Ms. Misher’s small apartment. She remembers, “the boys were growing and I just didn’t have the space.” Her neighbor let her know that Habitat was building homes in Deanwood and she showed up at the next homebuyer meeting with all the required documents organized and ready to be handed in.

She received the phone call notifying her that she had been selected as a homeowner right around the time of her birthday (which coincidentally matches her home address). She responded to the phone call, “You know what? That’s a good birthday present!” She finished all of her sweat equity hours in one summer, even taking two weeks off of work to be on the construction site every day. When she finally moved in, she invited all of her friends to bring screwdrivers and hammers to build the furniture in her boys’ bedrooms. “We had an Ikea party!” she recalls.

Thanks in large part to Ms. Misher’s efforts, both her nephew and her grandson are exemplary young men. Marchial is an administrative assistant trying to complete a business degree at UDC, and Fellonte is studying communications at Old Dominion University on a four-year football scholarship. Unlike friends of his at other universities, he was not red-shirted his freshman year. He comes to visit his grandmother often and would like to buy a car to make the journey easier. When someone told her that her grandson and nephew were lucky to have her, Ms. Misher responded, “No, those kids help me. We help each other out.” They give her strength and enthusiasm, and she gives them a home and support.

Since becoming a homeowner, Ms. Edith Misher has learned to navigate the bus system in her neighborhood. She has started walking with a long-time friend, and her health has significantly improved. She enjoys having people over and especially likes sitting on her porch during summer and cooking meals outside. What’s her favorite thing about homeownership? “[My home] is… something that’s mine,” she says thoughtfully. She can have family over during the holidays, and save for the things she wants.

In an area where so many households are cost burdened, renters often choose to forego the small things that make life pleasant, like buying new furniture, finding hobbies to pass the time, or saving for simple amenities. Affordable home ownership opportunities give families breathing room and instill a sense of pride and responsibility that together have the power to gradually transform communities. Ms. Misher has been an “inspiration to her co-workers” and a driving force behind the successes of her grandson and nephew. She is looked up to in her community and appreciated by her Habitat partners. Her thoughts are hopeful. “I think we could be something if we joined together,” she says about her community.