A few hundred feet from Melissa Harris’ front porch, she can watch as boats of all shapes and sizes go by along the Cape Cod Canal.
“It’s literally a dream come true,” she said a little over a month after she and her two children moved into their own condo in Buzzards Bay. “It means a lot to me because I promised my kids that one of these days we’d have our own home and they could paint their rooms any way they wanted.”
Over 15 years ago, Harris never could have imagined such an idyllic scene would ever be possible. She had just returned to Cape Cod – she grew up here and graduated from Bourne High School – after moving away and living in New York City and Alabama.
A single parent, she and her then three-year-old son ended up at our Village at Cataumet shelter in Bourne. “I was really depressed,” she said. “I didn’t have two quarters to rub together. I remember standing in line at the food pantry. I definitely know what it was like to have absolutely nothing.”
At her lowest, she turned to her faith. “I started going to church and would write Bible scriptures and tape them up on the wall and I just prayed,” she said.
A month later, her prayers were answered when she received a housing voucher and found a home to rent in Popponesset. “I cried out of joy,” Harris said. “I went from being completely independent to having to follow the rules in a homeless shelter to renting a home with a yard. To have that freedom again, it felt amazing. It was a blessing.”
After seven years, that home was sold and Harris, her 9-year-old son, and 6-month-old daughter moved into the Residences at Canal Bluffs, an affordable housing development we constructed with the Preservation Of Affordable Housing (POAH).
The family remained there until December 31, 2018, when they moved to High Meadow Townhomes, another Housing Assistance-POAH project that we developed adjacent to Canal Bluffs.
While she loved living there, last year she saw an affordable home for sale that we had listed in Sandwich. She contacted our Director of Real Estate Gael Kelleher who began working with Harris on taking the necessary steps to become a homeowner, including taking our First-Time Homebuyers course.
While the Sandwich home ended up being purchased by another first-time homebuyer, Harris remained hopeful even as she endured one of the toughest years of her life as a nursing assistant at Cape Cod Hospital where she has worked on the designated COVID floor.
“On our floor, no one dies alone. It’s been sad. Right now, we only have three people, but at one time it was 50 to 60 people,” she said. “It’s been a long, long year to say the least.”
Shortly after the vaccine gave hope to so many, Harris and her children were given the same when they received the keys to their new 3-bedroom home on April 2.
The walls have been painted beige and the old carpeting was removed and new floors put in last month. “I’m able to put my own style into it,” Harris said. “I’m having a good time right now. It is really fun.
“Never in a million years did I ever think I’d be able to buy my own home,” she continued, crediting Housing Assistance for turning that dream into a reality. “Sometimes when you are stuck, you just need someone to hold your hand and walk alongside of you and to be treated with respect. It is important, with every single person, to just meet them where they are at and help them along the way. That is what happened with Housing Assistance.”