My Affordable House
Heidi Fuhr, age 22
To me, affordable housing is the key to achieving autonomy as a parent, as a household, and as a person. Not only does affordable housing offer short-term financial relief, it also provides the opportunity to learn life skills and lessons that will be valuable long after I have achieved self-sufficiency.
For almost a year, I have lived in a supportive housing program that offers beautiful downtown apartments with subsidized rent to single mothers in college. Before I moved in, I was single and pregnant. My living situation alternated between questionable roommate arrangements, and intolerable live-in boyfriend situations. I knew I had to have a household of my own by the time my baby came, but rent costs were so high. It would have been impossible to continue my education and spend quality time with my child if I was going to make ends meet. Luckily, by the time my son arrived, I’d found supportive housing and begun to learn some of the inner mechanisms of a functional household.
Some of the things I learned about running a household seem marginal, but they’re absolutely essential. For instance, learning to cook for one adult and a baby is no small task; after several months of buying meals one at a time in microwaveable packages, or cooking batches of food that were doomed to rot in Tupperware, I began to learn how to spread my food dollar further. Another indispensable skill I acquired was cleanliness; when my son learned to crawl, I quickly realized the merits of a good vacuum cleaner. As the only adult in my household, I also had to teach myself indispensable skills like budgeting, (or at least the persuasiveness to talk debtors into an extension), and time-management (which sometimes means squeezing a few minutes of studying in while my son is enthralled with his Cookie Monster doll).
As I learn head-of-household lessons, I am also growing in more spiritual, less tangible ways. Before I moved into supportive housing, I was very dependent on men. Because of my financial need to share rent, I lived with boyfriends; because I lived with boyfriends, I began to get emotionally attached to the idea of having a man around to give me a false sense of self-worth. Now that I’ve had a functional household of my own for almost a year, and go about my daily routines with no male companionship but the smiles and laughter of my son, my self-esteem is steadily growing. Now that I don’t need a man, I can wait to find a relationship that I really want.
Affordable housing has given me freedom. Since I don’t have to work full-time, I have the physical and emotional energy to spend quality time with my son, and to go to school full-time. My nine-month old son is healthy and happy and loves me to pieces, and I am just four short semesters away from receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in writing. Without affordable housing, none of this would have been possible.