• blue door mat that reads home

I wanted to learn more about the different organizations working on housing throughout the state, and about what it was like to work with those organizations on a personal level. Iris, the newest Habitat for Humanity homeowner in Nashua, was kind enough to share her experience and insight with me.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What is your housing story? 

I’m not sure how far back to go… I was born in Brooklyn, NY. We moved to Lawrence, MA when I was about 8 years old. I lived in Lawrence until I was 25. I got married in 2015 and lived in a rented single-family house in Wilmington for 2 years, then moved to a rented 1-bedroom apartment in Methuen for a year, then to a rented studio apartment in Haverhill for a year. In 2020, we bought a house in Nashua. I filed for divorce in 2021 and put the house up for sale.

I had to leave the house in Nashua because of the conflicts of the divorce. I moved out in August 2021, and I lived with my parents in Lawrence while I found an apartment. I was able to get an apartment with The Front Door Agency in Nashua in October 2021. I’ve been living in their housing program since.

Next year, I am very excited to move into my brand-new Habitat Home!

What has your experience been like working with Habitat? 

It’s been absolutely GREAT! My dad has been a Habitat Homeowner since 2009, so that’s how I found out about Habitat. While living in the Front Door, I asked my case manager if she could help me apply to be a Habitat homeowner. She helped me apply and, luckily, I was picked! As a single mom, being recently divorced, struggling to work full time while being the sole care provider for my kids, it felt like a miracle and the biggest blessing. 

The Greater Nashua Habitat for Humanity has been extremely supportive in every step of my process of becoming a new homeowner. Each and every person I have met has made me feel so loved and welcomed, like I’m part of a new family …the Habitat Family!

Have you ever done construction work before? 

Yes! I helped my parents with their sweat equity hours when their house was built in 2009. Apart from that, I don’t have any construction experience at all.

What is the role of community in your life?

I have always liked to give back to my community in any way I can. When I lived in Lawrence, I was very happy to be an ESL teacher in the town where I grew up. I taught in different schools in Lawrence for 6 years, and one of the schools was the same elementary school I attended as a student. I like being an ESL teacher because I was an ESL student and could relate to the struggle my students faced while learning English as a second language.  I love being able to use my second language to help others. 

Now, I am a preschool teacher at the same school my kids attend childcare. I feel very passionate about my job, and I love how I’m still being able to help my new community by doing what I enjoy most, teaching.

What are your hopes for the future, for your family and for yourself?

I have many plans and hopes for my family’s future. My main goal is to raise my babies to be happy, healthy, well-educated, and successful. I want to give them the best life and enjoy watching them learn and grow. 

How can New Hampshire do better to meet housing and other community needs?

I think New Hampshire does a great job helping the community with meeting housing needs.  I have been able to find many resources around Nashua that have helped me significantly! The Soup Kitchen in Quincy Street has been one of the best resources, because they have helped me with diapers, food, clothing, and other personal care items. I have benefited from food pantries at different churches, like the pantry at the First Baptist Church near Benson Park. I have also been a member of the program called Way Point. They have helped me in numerous ways, such as parenting tips, growth development for my kids, clothing, and diapers, and providing me with other resources. I’ve been able to get financial help from NH’s electric and gas assistance to ensure my home is safe and warm for my kids.

How did you find the programs that helped you?

I got referred to them by asking around about where I could get help with certain things. The majority of the referrals came from The Front Door Agency. 

What would you change to help other families like yours?

I think The Front Door Agency is such an amazing program that, if I could, I would expand their program to every town, every state, and all around the world. I wish there were more programs like it everywhere in every community. And more Habitat for Humanity because I wish more people could get the amazing opportunity I did. I’m not sure if this already exists, but I also wish there was government assistance for elementary private schools, or even if it were a possibility for scholarships. I only mention this because I wish I could enroll my kids in a private school when they start elementary school. I would never be able to afford the cost as a single parent, but I wish I could.

What is something that you’re proud of? 

Many things! Mostly, seeing how much I’ve been able to accomplish as a single mom of two kids under 3. In the matter of two and a half years I’ve been able to work a full-time job, continue to fulfill all of the requirements of The Front Door Agency, become a Habitat homeowner, finding the greatest childcare center for my kids, continuing my education to complete my Masters, all while raising my two babies. Every day feels like an accomplishment.