From Partnership to Homeownership
Whitney Jett is a NOAHH partner family who started her partnership in June 2016. NOAHH will be following her story through the entire partnership and hopefully beyond. Part 4 is about her sweat equity in the ReStore and how she chose her lot. Click for Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
In June, Whitney Jett began her partnership. She completed her first 50 hours of sweat equity quickly in the ReStore, bringing her mother and stepfather out to help her. After 50 hours, all partner families can select the lot where their homes will be built from the list of properties owned by NOAHH. Whitney quickly started doing research on the lots. While working her hours, she also met other partner families, including Pamala Adams, with whom she coordinated her lot choice. They each had their own special reasons for picking where they did–Pam wanted a camelback house where she could entertain guests, and Whitney wanted a bigger lot.
“We just want to have a house and want to have a good neighborhood,” she said. “It’s like everybody is on the same page. We’re all gonna be friends. I think we’re gonna look out for each other.”
Whitney’s lot is on America Street, where NOAHH has been building for several years. Over the last five years, this area has been transformed from blighted properties to empty lots to a thriving neighborhood. This change made a difference for Whitney.
“I narrowed down the lot to America Street before I even went to that street,” she said. “The street had a reputation, apparently. When we first talked about it, it was like, ‘Dale Street, America Street? Oh, that neighborhood’s rough.’ I thought, ‘Well, not according to the crime map.’ And then we actually drove through, and it’s like, ‘Oh, yes, this is where we’re going. It’s a lot better.’
“When we first drove through, I saw the beginning of the street from Chef [Menteur Highway] is still kinda the older houses. This neighborhood is a little sketchy, but I had already looked at the crime map. I knew this spot was good. So you go up the street, and it’s like newer houses, newer houses, and then you get towards Dwyer, and it’s all Habitat houses–like, whoa! I’m among friends. Then I got the newsletter, and I think there was a section that said ‘How You’ve Changed America Street.’ I saw the before and after, and I said, ‘See! I get it. That’s exactly what it used to look like.’ I’m enthusiastic about it now.”
Whitney still has a few more hours in the ReStore. She comes most Saturdays with at least one family member–partner families are allowed up to three people with them when they volunteer, and each person’s hours count for sweat equity.
“The hard part is keeping them [her mom and stepdad] from shopping,” Whitney said. “The last time we were here, it’s like, oh look at these doors, these little handles, I can put these on the drawers at home. Mom, we didn’t come here to shop.”
Soon she will begin her hours on the build site. She and her mother are looking forward to the day when they’re helping build Whitney’s home, which is one of the parts of the program that attracted her to it. She has experience with DIY projects and looks forward to volunteering on site as a learning opportunity–and as a source of satisfaction.
“I get to build my house? Yeah!” she said. “‘Cause then it really feels like I did this. It’s not like oh some people built a house and now I bought it. No, it’s like I had an active part in doing so. I can walk in and say I put that nail there.
“I guess before Katrina and all that I had my room, and that was my sanctuary. I could just close the door and block myself off from the rest of the house and everything was good. It’s kinda like when Katrina took that away, I feel like I never really got it back. Even moving to California and having my own apartment, it still didn’t quite feel like it was mine. Even moving back home, it’s not quite my room right now. It never really quite feels like it’s my room. Especially if I have to share it with visitors coming to town. My only solution is to have a house where I can just say get out of my house and mean it. This is mine! It’s great. It’s about ownership, just–like a mental ownership. This might be mine, but I need it to feel like it’s mine. I need to walk in the door and know nobody else is in here, nothing. It’s great. I run this. I’m the queen of this castle. I want it to be my little castle room again.”
Her mother once more echoes her sentiments, and credits her own father with it as well. “Home is my space. My zone. My dad always taught me that’s where my structure comes from. He always told us no matter what goes on with your day, that’s your space. You close the door, turn the key, get in the house, and you just shut the world off. You do you. Reset. My dad always taught us it’s your home, you own it. Don’t let somebody come in and run it for you.”