A Life Transformed: ‘I never thought home ownership would actually happen’

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SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – For Nichole Callia, becoming a homeowner was about so much more than financial stability or having a permanent roof over her head. It was about breaking destructive cycles and providing her own children the kind of guidance she never received.

“When I was able to buy a home and be the first person in my family to do so, it just showed to my children that you achieve anything you want to no matter where you come from,” Nichole says, pausing to dab the tears welling in her eyes. “I’m sorry. This is very emotional for me. I never thought this would actually happen.”

It did, thanks to the helping hands of Neighborhood Housing Services of the Inland Empire (NHSIE) and National Community Renaissance (National CORE), non-profit organizations dedicated to helping individuals and families move from dependency to prosperity. Nichole had been living in the former Waterman Gardens public housing project and had the opportunity to move into a new unit as part of National CORE’s Arrowhead Grove Neighborhood Revitalization effort.

She knew, however, that owning a home was a better option for her three children, one of whom is autistic and requires constant care and plenty of space. She’d tried to buy a home several times before, but her income and credit history stood in the way. Through NHSIE, she was able to qualify under a first-time homebuyer program that allowed her to purchase the four-bedroom, $245,000 home.

“My own bank turned me down for a loan, so I had pretty much given up,” Nichole says.

National CORE and NHSIE never did, however. Courtney Richard, National CORE’s onsite manager at Arrowhead Grove, urged Nichole to take part in NHSIE’s home-ownership program. Within a few months, her credit score had increased and her mortgage approved.

“Courtney always believed in my dream,” Nichole says, “and NHSIE made it happen.”

As she took a visitor on a recent tour of her new home, Nichole couldn’t help reflecting on her past and the challenges she has faced. Her parents were addicted to drugs and did prison time, and for much of her childhood, Nichole was raised by her grandmother.

“I didn’t even meet my dad until I was 27. He was never a part of my life,” Nichole says. “My grandmother did the best she could, but her only goal for me was to get through high school. I wanted more than that.”

A single mom whose income comes from being the caregiver for her autistic son, Nichole says she is more focused on creating a better life for her children than holding any grudges against her parents. Before officially moving into her new home, she proudly showed it off to her mother.

“I’ve forgiven them,” she says. “What matters are the lessons I’m able to provide my kids. I’ve always wanted better for them than what I had.”

Dawn Lee, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer for NHSIE, and Steve PonTell, President and Chief Executive Officer for National CORE, say Nichole’s story can help others who have given up on homeownership understand that help is available.

“We are incredibly proud of what Nichole has been able to accomplish despite what must feel to her to be overwhelming odds,” Lee says. “Her determination led her to the support she needed to make her dream come true and provide a better life – and better opportunities – for her children.”

Says PonTell, “Home ownership is the key to a stable, healthy city. When you own a home, you become vested in the community in ways that benefit everyone. We all have a responsibility to support programs and services that help make that happen.”

Nichole agrees.

“I definitely could not have done this without the support of National CORE and NHSIE,”
 she says. “You might think you can’t own a home, but you can.”

About National CORE, Hope through Housing
National Community Renaissance, based in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., is one of the nation’s largest nonprofit developers of affordable housing. CORE manages nearly 9,000 affordable, senior and market-rate units in California, Arkansas, Texas and Florida. For more information on National CORE, please visit www.nationalcore.org.

About NHSIE
Neighborhood Housing Services of the Inland Empire, based in San Bernardino, Calif., is dedicated to creating homeownership opportunities, bridging the housing affordability gap, and building sustainable communities of choice – one person, one home, and one neighborhood at a time. For more information on NHSIE and the services it offers, please visit www.nhsie.org.

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