The "Impact of Stable Housing"

Posted by Markolline Forkpa
Hits: 467

By Markolline Forkpa, Development and Marketing Associate

When I was in the second grade, my parents made a decision that drastically changed the lives of my older brother, baby brother, and myself. They purchased a home.

Before that life changing moment, we lived in a small two-bedroom apartment in Philadelphia. Though crime was not a major issue, there were many other factors that made our living environment less than ideal. For one, my brothers and I shared a small bedroom where we slept on twin size bunk beds. While this arrangement was not so bad when we were little, it really took its toll as we grew older. Being the only girl, I always longed for the space to claim my individuality. Likewise, having no real space where my brothers could play created the perfect condition for trouble. Together with concerns that my parents had about our schooling and the growing costs of rent, these issues really fueled their determination to purchase a larger space that they could finally call home.

As Liberian immigrants who migrated to the United States at the height of a civil war in their home country, my parents were serious about providing my siblings and I with the opportunities we would need to be successful.  When it came time to find the right community, my mom was painstakingly deliberate in how she made her decision. She took into account the school districts, the locations of nearest grocery stores, local libraries, and a multitude of other community resources that she believed would allow us to live the best lives we could. After several months of intense searching, she finally decided on a home in Bensalem. I was eight years old when we made the big move.

 

Looking back, I can still recall the overwhelming excitement I experienced when we first drove into the driveway of our new house! For a small child, it is difficult to grasp the significance of homeownership. For my brothers and me, the “impact of stable housing” was the furthest thing from our mind. All we knew at the time was that we were going to have our own rooms! Yet now, when I compare my life trajectory with that of my peers who were unable to move into better environments, I can see just how impactful that move was in shaping my adolescence and ultimately, my future. The reality is that we gained opportunities in Bensalem that we may not have been exposed to had we stayed in the neighborhood where we lived initially. In the most meaningful way, homeownership changed the narrative for my family.

When we moved into our new home, we enrolled into new schools with more rigorous coursework.  We were exposed to a wider range of academically enriching resources, and even had the chance to choose from the long list of extracurricular activities that were orchestrated by our school district and community. I joined the choir and band, and my brothers each joined a sports team. Being a part of these activities kept us out of trouble and focused on self-development. When we came home from school each day, we were welcomed into a space where we could sit on the kitchen table with our parents and do our homework without worry about not having enough room to set out our calculators, pencils, rulers and other tools. We became part of a community of other homeowners and parents who, in their own ways, nurtured and helped to support us as we dealt with the inevitable growing pains of our adolescence. Growing up in this healthy environment, above all, molded us into the adults we are today.

When I first started working at Habitat for Humanity of Montgomery County, I would often be asked by my colleagues how I went from a career in Public Health to what I do at Habitat, managing the marketing and other communication pieces for this affiliate. Personally, this transition is less a reflection of lack of direction than it is of my compassion for low-income families across the community. Moving from an apartment to our home in the second grade truly influenced the course of my life. At Habitat, I feel fulfilled knowing that each day I come to work I am helping to create that same life-changing experience for another second grader in our community.