Hartford Area Habitat for Humanity is celebrating the start of its 30th year anniversary. It began with a kickoff party on October 19, 2018 at the Hartford Marriott Downtown. I interviewed Habitat homeowner Robin Roy for the celebration. Here is her story.
The first night in my new home was surreal,” Robin Roy remembered vividly. It was July 1, 2000. Her two boys were in their rooms, and Robin had a moment to collect her wits and reflect. With the whirlwind of her house dedication and house warming parties over, it was a quiet moment sitting in her living room when she finally realized, “This house is my house. It’s really mine. I thought I’d never own a home, never.” In 1999, Robin was raising her two sons on her own in a small two-bedroom apartment on Manchester’s Birch Street. Her daughter was a young adult already out on her own. That’s when Robin’s rent notice arrived. Her landlord was raising her rent, which would stress her slim budget even further. But she had hope. She recently received her income tax refund. She thought that perhaps the refund coupled with some other grant could finally open the door to homeownership. She called the Connecticut 2-1-1 Help Line for guidance on possible opportunities to pursue, but after following up she found every door locked shut despite a “pretty good credit rating,” and a regular income working in the Alstom Power company cafeteria. It simply wasn’t enough to obtain a mortgage. Then a chance comment by the 2-1-1 counselor led to another way – perhaps she should try Hartford Habitat for Humanity.
“What’s Habitat for Humanity?” she thought. When she first heard about Habitat, Robin was a skeptic. Her initial reaction was, “Is this organization for real?” But she committed to checking it out at an Applicant Information Meeting, and it was there she listened to former Family Services Director Steve Zwerling explain Habitat’s homeownership program. She learned that Habitat was planning to build three houses in Manchester, including one already under construction on Wells Street.
Though she took an application, Robin wasn’t fully convinced that Habitat was “for real;” that is until she visited the Wells Street site and saw first-hand “all these guys building away as a team.” She was so inspired that she wanted to “pick up a hammer right then an there” just like she was taught growing up helping out in her father’s auto repair garage.
Robin quickly completed the Habitat application and letter of interest. Where the application asked which of three towns Habitat currently would be building did she prefer, she listed “Manchester, Manchester, Manchester” to emphasize that Manchester was definitely where she wanted to stay. While she knew that if accepted Habitat made no promises as to where she might be offered an opportunity to buy a house, Robin committed to proving she was serious. She volunteered immediately to help build the next Habitat home already under construction on Bissell Street. It was winter, snowy and cold. It paid off.
Robin was working in the cafeteria when she got “the call.” Habitat had accepted her application. Her new home would be built on Manchester’s Foster Street. Taken completely by surprise, Robin, with her eyes welling up in tears, joyfully shouted out the good news right in front of her customers, who then followed up with cheers all around. Many cards and best wishes soon followed propelling her forward.
Robin had never done carpentry, but, undeterred, she pitched in every weekend she could to help build her new home. “I cut the rails on my porch”, she said proudly as she showed off her still sturdy handiwork. “I wouldn’t have gotten a home without Habitat,” she added with the satisfaction of knowing her sweat equity helped build it. She tells everyone Habitat has always been there for her. One winter, a few years after moving in, she discovered icicles were forming in her attic. She asked Bud Moyer, a long time and beloved Habitat Saint who had worked on her house, to take a look. He determined it was because moisture wasn’t venting properly. Without a second thought, Bud voluntarily fixed the problem by installing additional soffit vents.
Robin is a big believer in Habitat, and she’ll try to help anyway she can. For Robin, “Life is all about helping out.” Having a safe, affordable home stabilized her family life. It gave her time focus on raising her family, as well as herself. She eventually earned her GED, and now works for Companions & Homemakers serving people in need. It’s a natural fit and a job she loves. In two years her mortgage will be paid off, and then she can truly say, “This house is my house. It’s really mine.”
Don Shaw, Jr.
Writer and Editor