When you meet Olivia and her three teenage kids, their positive attitudes would never reveal the adversity they’ve overcome in their lives, thus far. The family has lived in a string of substandard apartments for a long time but they approach tough situations with humor.
“We’ve always lived in horrible housing. When I walk into our new home, I’m going to cry,” says Rudica, Olivia’s fifteen-year-old daughter.
“I’m going to kiss the walls!” says Alicia, her thirteen-year-old daughter, who the family affectionately calls ‘Fama.’
The family is originally from Deming, New Mexico. They moved to Tucson almost ten years ago.
When they first arrived, they lived in a parsonage of a church for four years. With the help of her church community, Olivia was able to put a down payment on the apartment she and her kids are currently in but the neighborhood is very unsafe, with frequent fights and crime occurring in the area.
Olivia doesn’t let her daughters go outside alone. If they want to ride their bikes or walk Tumamoc hill, Olivia goes with them. Both the girls look forward to walking their dog without worry.
The girls say that they always feel unsafe at home. The family experienced an attempted break-in when someone unscrewed a window screen and tried to enter the apartment. Luckily the family wasn’t home and the perpetrator didn’t succeed but the incident has heightened their anxiety. Rudica doesn’t like being home alone and turns on all the lights when she gets home to make sure no one is in their apartment.
Olivia also feels like she pays too much money for the apartment considering its condition. The apartment is poorly insulated, often causing outrageous utility costs, like a $500 electric bill. There’s mold in their closets and the apartment has cockroaches and mice. The apartment doesn’t have a furnace, the A/C barely works, and water leaks have caused damage to the ceiling.
In 2009, Olivia was in a bad car accident. She was hit head-on and cracked her jaw. She also cracked a disc which required back surgery and left 16 plates and four pins in her back. She was left with facial breaks and permanent nerve damage. Olivia qualified for disability but got restless after not working for almost a year. She started volunteering at Gap Ministries, working a full-time schedule until eventually she was hired on as a full-time visitation supervisor.
Even though she has wanted to move many times, Olivia felt she couldn’t due to her chronic back pain limiting her physically. “I told myself to stick it out until we found a permanent home so that we didn’t have to keep moving,” she says.
Now, Olivia has been in the homeownership program since April 2017 and loves it.
“I never thought it would be possible for me to own a home on my own. I had called around to different services and organizations for assistance with homeownership but that didn’t become possible until I came to Habitat,” says Olivia.
She’s meeting her future neighbors and building a supportive community. She enjoys the financial planning and budgeting classes. She’s learning how to save money and budget, and then passing on the lessons of financial value to her kids. It represents self-reliance to her.
Homeownership will bring stability to Olivia’s family, which is the most important priority for her kids. “We’ve moved around so much and it’s been hard for them to make friends. We’ve been in our neighborhood for three years and they don’t have any friends around that area. I’m so glad they’re meeting kids their age who will become our neighbors.”
Fabian, her 16-year-old son, has fallen in love with construction while working at the build site and has been inspired to pursue a trade because of it.
All her children have ambitious future goals and Olivia looks forward to providing them with a safe and secure environment where they can nurture and pursue those goals.
“My kids are very loving. They love to volunteer and help people. All the bad things that have happened to us in our lives, I believe, happened for a reason. Going through so much, has forced them to grow up very fast but now they can help other people who are going through tough times,” says Olivia.
Four years ago, Olivia became a born-again Christian. She says that before that nothing was going right in her life. And since then, she feels like things have been working in her favor. She says she doesn’t have everything she wants, but she has everything she needs.