Rodneyca Gray Becomes a DC Habitat Homeowner
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Rodneyca grew up in a small home shared with four families. Her mother, who struggled with drug abuse and mental health issues, had her at age 18 and then her brother ten years later. After being abandoned by her father, Rodneyca was mainly raised by her uncle and grandmother. Owing to her tough upbringing and “always looking for the love [she] didn’t receive from [her] father,” Rodnecya had her first child, a daughter, at only 15. Two years later, she had a son. Struggling as a single mother to avoid the same path her mother had taken – drug abuse and mental anguish – she eventually failed to keep sober and hold a steady job. At 27, she had a second son, making her a single mother of three children.
At 32, Rodneyca was subject to a drug raid. Her children were almost taken from her care. She didn’t know where to turn, or whom to trust. She says, “God had a plan for my life. I always tried to remember that.”
After the raid, Rodneyca turned her life around. She found a job that awarded her a good salary and the hours needed to take care of her children. She got sober and worked every day to provide a better life for her family, and to make herself a more viable candidate to own a home.
She now works for NASA as an armed police officer. “It was tough, I had to pass obstacle courses, and I’m not in great shape, but I did it.” However, she was still living in a neighborhood full of crime, drugs, and alcohol abuse. “I would come home to strangers on my porch, items stolen from me. I couldn’t open my windows at night because of smoke and loud music.” She had a great job and could support her children, but the environment put strains on her.
Rodneyca learned about Habitat during an HPAP course (Home Purchase Assistance Program), a program that provides interest-free loans and closing cost assistance to qualified applicants, aiding in their future home purchase. During the course, Rodneyca overheard people speaking about DC Habitat. Despite being turned down previously, she gave Habitat a call, never losing focus on her goal to be a homeowner. From that time on, the process sped forward. Rodneyca was approved, and Habitat called every week to make sure she was keeping up with what was needed. “Habitat was so patient with me. I always had so many things going on in my head at once, sometimes I forgot to return calls. Kelly and Orlando never gave up on me. When you connect with the right organization that wants you to achieve success, you can get there. Habitat is that for me.”
Rodneyca admits she’s been having trouble completing her sweat equity, but helping to build the house she will own is nonetheless a joyful experience. She plans to bring her children and friends out to the construction site next time, so they can all build together.
Given her current living situation, Rodneyca is most excited to have her own space, her own porch, bedrooms for each child, and the freedom to open her windows at night and hear peace and quiet. She can’t wait to grill outside, and begin painting. “I can’t believe I will be a HOMEOWNER. I’ve never been able to say that before. My home will be a place that is no one else’s. People have to respect and value it. It’s the biggest accomplishment in my life, and I’m never going to forget it.”
Her children are equally excited. Her daughter, currently in college, can’t wait to have a safer place to come home to on breaks, a place to host friends, a place to call her own. Her older son, who recently became a father himself, will now have a place to bring his child, anytime he wants. Her 8-year-old son wants to get outside, play soccer in the grass and bike around the neighborhood. “I want to raise my youngest in a better environment, show him what is possible with hard work and dedication, show him a good life.”
Rodneyca sums up the experience as “incredibly humbling.” “Two to three years ago,” she says, “I never thought I would be here. Never. I was always put down by everyone around me. Told I would never amount to anything. I want to show my children that if you focus and push through, you can succeed.”
After the process is over and she has moved into her new home, Rodneyca has volunteered to retell her story to anyone who might listen, who might benefit, and who might need to hear it. She says, “I want to inspire others that might think they can’t beat their past. If I can do this, I can do anything.” It is all a dream come true.