“It’s hard work, mentally and physically; but I’m thankful for this opportunity. I have met a community of people that I wouldn’t have ever known if it wasn’t for Habitat. Every single one of them is wonderful and care so much. There is no doubt that God is walking around that place; these people are living it. Their hearts are so big and so caring for people who are struggling and who couldn’t have attained what they have acquired without the help of Habitat. It gives people a reason to keep on going … to build a foundation to keep on building.”
Every Homeowner Has a Story
Future Habitat Homeowner
James B. is a strong, fun-loving individual, who sees the positive side of life. He has been through a lot throughout the course of his life and has many stories to tell if you are willing to listen. James grew up in Boonville, and he says, “I was the first black kid in Boonville Elementary School. It was like warfare.” In high school, despite being mistreated and wrongfully being placed in a special education classes, James’ guidance counselor helped him see his academic potential – he had the highest test scores in his grade. James went on to study at the University of Evansville in 1972, and earned a Degree in Education with a Masters in Education and Art. Soon after, James became the art teacher for Castle High School. Later in life, James switched professions and worked as a union laborer and carpenter, though he is now retired.
In the middle of his professional life, James married his wife, and they had four lovely children, three sons and a daughter – James Jr. (44), Sadia (38), Jacy (33), and Jakob (20). All of his children have a strong work ethic and sound set of morals instilled by their parents, which makes James a proud father. James Jr. works for Shell Oil in Saudi Arabia and was an all-state wrestler at Michigan State. Jacy, works for a union in Evansville and is currently working on the water system by the riverfront. Jakob went to Harrison High School and attends IU on an academic scholarship. Sadia is an art teacher at Reitz High School and the mother of four girls – Jasmin (18), Mia (14), Jayda (12) and Melia (3 weeks in November 2020). Sadly, James’ wife passed of cancer in 2015.
The apartment James has lived in for the last 15 years was unfortunately harmful to his health and riddled with problems. James states, “There was dust blowing out of the vents from the heater and air conditioning which got all over the furniture, carpet, and in my contacts. I was breathing it in. I had to go to a pulmonary doctor because of it.” After 3 years and nothing being done by the complex to resolve the issue despite James’ numerous attempts, he finally contacted the state health department and the building code commissioners. Very shortly thereafter, he got an eviction notice to be out in 2 weeks. “I put everything in storage and have been thankfully living with my daughter temporarily,” James says. However, due to having been evicted, James has had a hard time getting accepted into any other apartment rental. He says, “I could have gotten a really bad rental with a slum lord for a landlord for $200 a month, but I didn’t want to live like that.”
Now, two and a half years later, James is still living with his daughter and her four girls in their 3-bedroom house. He says, “At least I’m getting to see my granddaughters grow. I’m on the couch in the living room, trying to stay as healthy as possible, and minimizing contact around the baby due to Covid.”
James says, “My sister suggested that I apply with Habitat for Humanity. I thought about it, and then decided to apply. When I found out I was accepted, I was ecstatic. I haven’t had anything good like this happen to me in a long, long time.”
Since being accepted into the Habitat homeownership program, James has begun working on his sweat equity hours. He states, “It’s hard work, mentally and physically; but I’m thankful for this opportunity. I have met a community of people that I wouldn’t have ever known if it wasn’t for Habitat. Every single one of them is wonderful and care so much. There is no doubt that God is walking around that place; these people are living it. Their hearts are so big and so caring for people who are struggling and who couldn’t have attained what they have acquired without the help of Habitat. It gives people a reason to keep on going … to build a foundation to keep on building.”
James chuckles and adds, “The girls rule the house. There are 4 … now 5 girls in the house, and I’m the last one to get to use the bathroom.” Understandingly, he says, “The kids have to get to school, so I’m always the last, which sometimes makes me late to get out to the construction site; but thankfully everyone at Habitat understands!”
“To me, this home will mean security. It will mean that no one can evict me. Every penny I worked for will be going into something that I can say is my own; it’s meaningful and uplifting.” He chuckles and adds, “I’ll have my own bathroom, so I can take a shower whenever I want too. And, I’ll have a place that I can lay my head on a pillow at the end of the day. It just means a whole lot to me … even at my age. I’m planning on staying there for the long-term. I’m kind of glad I got evicted because it ended up working out. Sometimes, if you do the right thing, it ends up working out for the best. The decisions seem hard, but it can turn out to be a blessing.”
Looking to the future, James says, “After I get my home, I would like to continue to work with the Core Crew as long as possible. I love working on these houses! I would also like to visit my brother in Missouri and my sister in Texas … and then have a home to come back to.”
“From the bottom of my heart, I want to really thank these people – the volunteers, my friends and family, Susan, Birdie, the home visitation team, and everyone involved with Habitat. I really appreciate you all being there for me, and I want to give back through Habitat. I’m glad to be able to stay in Vanderburg county! This gives me the opportunity to stay where I grew up. Thank you for letting me stay home.”