“Our dream is to have our own house,” says Janvier. “Our future we want to be a happy future.”
Originally from the Republic of Congo, Janvier and Yvonne, and their four children have been living in a small apartment in Tucson for the past three years. With four young ones under the age of 9 – and the littlest, Lucy, only 6 months old – it’s an extremely cramped space. The three young boys share one room, while baby Lucy sleeps in Janvier and Yvonne’s room.
Janvier and Yvonne have both been working as caretakers in a group home, caring for elderly, ill, and disabled clients. On the weekends, Janvier serves as a deacon at his church and Yvonne sings in the choir, even humming a hymn to herself as we talk. Most of their income goes toward rent. “There’s not too much left over,” Janvier says.
Right now, Janvier saves whatever he can for the future – and when he pictures the future, it’s a house for his family.
Janvier and Yvonne are excited to see their children’s dreams evolve and change every day. Eight-year-old Elfadhar loves imagining the possibilities for his ow life. He says, “I want to be a lawyer. And I want to be an FBI and do gymnastics.” This makes Janvier and Yvonne smile – to see the spirit and personality of their young children.
But lately, they’ve been feeling unsafe in their own home. Sometimes when Janvier comes home from work, their apartment neighbors are smoking drugs in front of his front door, in large groups, and the smell seeps into his home. The ground is often littered with cigarette butts and broken beer bottles. Javier even remembers a time when there was a shooting in the apartment complex. Two or three people died before the shooter killed himself.
“We was home – it was Sunday,” Janvier said solemnly. “It took two days to clean up the blood. It scared the kids to go outside, to go out and play.”
Janvier and Yvonne want better for their family. “To invite people to one’s home, share meals, share food, and talk, like a family – that’s the main things that make us happy. We love praying, and spending our time with prayer.”
All of that will be possible in their new Habitat home. Janvier pictures a strong, big house. He likes the ideas that his neighbors won’t come and go so much as they do in an apartment. Even his car, he knows, won’t be surrounded by shattered beer bottle glass, but tucked safely inside a garage.
With their new Habitat home, they know their kids will thrive too. “Now we don’t have a place to put their books, but in our Habitat home they’re going to have a place to put their things,” says Janvier. “When they go to do homework, it’s going to be quiet.”
When asked what home means to him, Elfadhar says, “Somewhere we live, somewhere we get protected, somewhere that’s our safety, somewhere that’s our safe zone.”
Janvier smiles and nods, agreeing. “A safe place. Yes.”