If not for NeighborWorks® Southern New Hampshire there’s no way we would have been able to buy a house. We wouldn’t have even been able to come close.
I sit here now in my own home. I have a cozy place that is my own. I’m so proud.
When we were saving to buy the house, we had to cut back on a lot. That meant no Wi-Fi, keeping our electricity bill low, and being efficient with our water. Not only are we making an investment, but we are in control of our home. We can give our daughters a space to call their own, and in a safe, convenient location. It is perfect.
This is our home in a community we love. We look forward to celebrating our first Thanksgiving holiday in it with all of our family.
With the hum of large equipment in the background, moving boxes, and packages in the New Hampshire Food Bank warehouse, Jason Rivers is happy. The Coordinator of the Food Bank’s garden in the summer and warehouse worker in the winter, Jason now feels connected to his community. “I enjoy working with others, and giving back to my community,” Rivers says. “Things haven’t always been easy for me, so it feels good to be in a position to help out.”
Nine years ago, Jason was in a much different place. After a crisis in his personal life, he went from owning a home to spending a week in a hotel, and eventually moving into a boarding house. After a short period living in transitional housing, a coworker at the Midway Shelter where he worked at the time told Jason about Straw Mansion Apartments in Manchester. Jason applied, and was accepted as one of the first tenants.
“[Living at Straw Mansion Apartments] gave me the time and space I needed to heal, and come back from what had happened,” Jason recalls. “Without this opportunity, who knows where I would be.”
After only a year living at Straw Mansion, unfortunate circumstances happened yet again. “My job moved out of the city, and I was unemployed for ten months,” the Vermont native says. After a job opportunity with a friend in California fell through, Jason returned to New Hampshire. He was fortunate that there was an apartment available again at Straw Mansion.
After participating in the culinary training program at the New Hampshire Food Bank, Jason secured a cooking job at a local seafood restaurant, and was offered a part-time position as a gardener at the Food Bank. That job eventually became full time, and made Jason responsible for recruiting more than 500-800 volunteers each summer, along with coordinating the planting and harvesting schedules for the Food Bank’s expensive growing program.
“My housing situation has helped me to get back on my feet so I can pay the bills and be involved in my community in a meaningful way.”
Jason now participates at the Young Friends of the Currier group at the Currier Museum of Art, and volunteers with the Manchester Young Professionals Network. He is also on the Board of Directors at NeighborWorks® Southern New Hampshire. Jason hopes to become a homeowner again one day when the time is right.
Lifting heavy boxes, wheeling racks of jackets and moving bulky couches, Joe Goulet was the happiest he had been in years.
The proud owner of his own business space, Joe regularly hosts flea markets, and starting later this month, he will start his own auction house.
Joe and his wife are proud parents of three adopted children. They purchased their Salem home in 2000. Originally a three-bedroom home, Joe renovated the house, adding two additional bedrooms and one bathroom to accommodate their large family.
Even after his 20+ year electrical manufacturing career was suddenly outsourced to China, Joe persevered. After trying to go back to school and get a degree, Joe eventually opened a consignment store. Business was great for the first few years.
“It quickly became hit or miss,” Joe remembered of his old business. “After the economy turned in 2008, it became harder to make enough.”
Joe began to fall behind on his mortgage, and even then he was able to catch up by getting a second full time job to supplement his income. After being laid off a year later, Joe began to fall behind once again.
Shortly thereafter, he saw an article in the Eagle Tribune, which pointed him to the New Hampshire Bar Association, and their Foreclosure Relief Project. He attended a class with the Bar Association in Salem, and was then directed to a Foreclosure Prevention and Intervention seminar with HOMEteam. He attended the class at NeighborWorks® Southern New Hampshire’s Manchester facility, and felt he had what he needed to get out of his crisis.
“It was a good class, and after I felt I could do it on my own,” Joe said of the seminar.
He could not manage it on his own, however. Dealing with his servicer was too much for him to cope with alone, and after months of struggling, he called HOMEteam back and scheduled a meeting with counselor Debbie Wheeler. At the time of the call, he was three days out from the auction date on his home.
“I had an appointment with an angel named Debbie,” Joe commented. “She told me ‘do what I tell you, in the timeframe and we can try to get through this together.’”
Through the Home Help New Hampshire Initiative, Debbie worked in tandem with Attorney Stephanie Bray from New Hampshire Legal Aid to secure a loan modification for Joe and his family. His payment was reduced by $700 a month, and Joe and his family were able to stay in their home.
“I am very thankful; it is due to the hard work of Deb and Stephanie that my home was saved.”
“My heart was pounding for three days afterwards, it was a dream come true,” was Amherst tenant Brenda Hall’s reaction to the news her application had been accepted and she would be moving in to the newly developed Hidden Pond Apartments in Amherst. After unsuccessfully vying for a spot in the Abingdon Square Apartments in Goffstown, the New Hampshire native spoke with staff at Stewart Property Management, the property manager for rental properties owned by NeighborWorks® Southern New Hampshire, about an alternative. They told her about a new development in Amherst, and that there was one spot left. After touring the new development and speaking with the property managers and her potential neighbors, she knew it was for her. A single mother of three, she was ready to be in a more suburban setting, while remaining close to the urban amenities she also enjoys. It was not all good news, however. The representative she was working with at Stewart Property Management informed her the last unit had gone to another family. “My heart sunk,” she said. That was until a few days later, when Fatima, her contact at Stewart Property Management, called back. “She said the family in the unit I looked at backed out, and she asked if I was still interested,” Brenda recounted. “I couldn’t believe it, and I said I would bring the deposit right over.” She then drove back to Amherst to make the deposit, and after the completion of the necessary paperwork, she found herself a proud member of the Hidden Pond community. “I love the community here, everybody knows everybody, and they are very welcoming too,” she says. She has always tried to be involved in her community. She worked at the Manchester Police Department, and earned her MBA from Southern New Hampshire University at the same time. After a crisis in her family disrupted her life, Brenda left the Police Department and picked up some work at Saint Anslem Library, all the while searching for affordable housing in a more suburban environment. Getting out of the city was a priority for her and her boys, as her youngest has a disability and benefits from being in a more country setting. Brenda continues to work rush hours at Saint Anslem College, where she is pursuing employment on a permanent basis. Currently, she supplements her income by working for a Multi-Level Marketing company, but she is also looking for other ways to get involved in her community. “Volunteering would be very rewarding, I know you can volunteer at the library, the Police Department, and the town hall doing administrative tasks,” Brenda enthused. She is excited to bring her experience to her new town, and though she has spent less than six months in Amherst, she already feels at home. Her son Christian just started playing baseball for his school, and her youngest, Jakob, has thoroughly enjoyed learning Spanish at the town library.
After relocating to Puerto Rico from her native Dominican Republic and a violent bus encounter, Odenis Nunez Morel knew it was time for her growing family to find a new location to call home. Three months pregnant at the time, she packed her bags the next day and moved to Manchester, New Hampshire, a city far to the north where her sister lived.
With her husband, Edwin, still in Puerto Rico putting their affairs in order, Odenis moved in with her sister and began looking for a job and a place of her own.
"I would walk around the (center city) neighborhood and see these townhouses. They were very nice, big, and so close to everything. I knew that's where I wanted my family to be," she said.
But when she went to inquire about renting one of the townhouse apartments that are part of NeighborWorks® Southern New Hampshire's Renaissance II development, she was in for a shock: all of the organization's townhouse apartments are in very high demand, for all of the reasons Odenis wanted to live there: size, condition, amenities and location.
She was put on a waiting list. It could literally take years, she was told, before there might be a vacancy.
"I was told people only move out if they buy a house or if they die.
"I would look at the townhouses each time I passed by and I'd pray to the Lord, "Please, Lord, please give me this townhouse - let someone move out," she said.
In the end, Odenis and Edwin waited four years before they and their still growing family could move into one of the three bedroom, one-and-a-half bath townhomes complete with a full basement and washer/dryer hookups.
That was more than nine years ago. The couple has raised multiple children, as well as two nephews, in their townhouse. It’s within walking distance of Edwin’s job. It's home.
"I recommend NeighborWorks® Southern New Hampshire apartments to all of my friends who are looking for somewhere to live. The apartments are good quality, safe and well maintained by Stewart Property Management," she said.
In recent months, Odenis and Edwin have begun taking home buyer classes through the NeighborWorks® Southern New Hampshire Home Ownership Center and have opened an Individual Development Account to help them save for a down payment for a house.
But Odenis admits that it will be hard to leave their townhouse apartment, even if it is for a home of their own.
"My son doesn't want to move at all," she said. "This is the only home he's ever known. He says 'why can't we buy this place?', but it's not for sale."
“Come see my room!”
Three-year-old Dylan Baird is insistent. He’s very proud of the space he shares with his twin brother Conner, and he wants to show it off.
But providing Dylan and Conner a permanent space of their own, as well as a yard to play in, just wasn’t something that was in the cards for Ryan and Hillary Baird as recently as a couple of years ago.
Living in northern New Hampshire at the time, it was a challenge for the Bairds to find year-round employment — a prerequisite for them to become home owners. Knowing job prospects were better in Southern New Hampshire, the family headed south in the summer of 2011, when they moved into the Merrimack home of Hillary’s parents.
“Living with your in-laws is no dream come true, but it allowed us to save some money,” Ryan said of the cramped living arrangements. “We gave ourselves a deadline of a year to find and buy our own place.”
But figuring out how to do so was going to be a challenge. The couple admitted that at the time they didn’t really know anything about the home buying process.
So they did what most people do these days: they went online. Searching for resources for first time homebuyers, the Bairds learned of the Individual Development Account (IDA) program, an asset-building tool that helps qualified individuals save for a down payment via a matched savings program. To enroll in the program, they discovered they would need to attend a homebuyer seminar and then participate in one-on-one counseling through NeighborWorks® Southern New Hampshire.
It was here they met with a Home Ownership Specialist who guided them through the IDA enrollment process.
“If not for NeighborWorks® Southern New Hampshire there’s no way we would have been able to buy a house. We wouldn’t have even been able to come close,” said Ryan.
After taking the homebuyer seminar in the fall of 2011, it took the Bairds more than six months to find a house. They made an offer on a house they liked but the deal — a short sale — never came to fruition. They kept looking and looking and finally came upon a cape-style home right down the road from Hillary’s parents in Merrimack.
“I knew it was the one,” said Hillary. “I could imagine raising our kids here. I just didn’t get that feeling at any of the other places we looked at.”
This time, their offer was accepted and the Bairds closed on their home in July 2012. Since then, their house and yard have been a continuous and expensive improvement project, they said, but they wouldn’t trade any of it.
“The boys love it. They love being able to play outside and there are lots of kids in the neighborhood for them to play with,” Hillary said. “It’s just perfect.”
When Martha and Scott Tacker first moved to Manchester in 1998, they envisioned staying in public housing for one year. They so wanted to buy a home of their own for their family, which included three young children. But the Tackers soon realized the very real financial challenges of providing for a family while saving for the purchase of a home.
At the time, Scott worked as a Medical Assistant (his current occupation) and also served in the New Hampshire Army National Guard while Martha stayed at home to care for the children. "Every time Scott received a raise in pay, there was a raise in rent so saving was very difficult," remembers Martha.
The goal seemed more attainable in 2000 when Scott and Martha decided to attend a home ownership seminar offered by NeighborWorks® Southern New Hampshire. They completed the educational program and enrolled in the IDA program. They set a goal of saving $100 every month toward the purchase of a home. Martha went back to work part-time.
Their plan was sidetracked briefly in 2004 when Scott was deployed to Iraq for one year. "We never stopped saving for the house, even while Scott was away. It was our future," says Martha.
After accumulating a total of $6,000 of their own and IDA matched funds, Martha and Scott began the process of looking for a home in June 2006. "Because of the education we received, we were more aware of options and ways to avoid expensive pitfalls," says Martha. Six months later Scott and Martha purchased a three-bedroom home on Manchester's East Side. The Tacker kids were thrilled — now they could build a snowman and no one was going to knock it down!
The Tacker family remains busy in their home today, happily working on various house projects. Martha says "Our kids have their own space and we feel a sense of stability in our lives. Our next goal – finding the right dog for our home."
Now that her goal of home ownership has finally been achieved, Dorothee Kinney is not quite sure it's real.
"For the last five years everything's been such a roller coaster ride. It's been exciting and frustrating," she said. "Now that we're in our new home, it hasn't really sunk in. It's kind of surreal."
To say that Dorothee was an unlikely candidate for home ownership when she moved to New Hampshire 11 years ago is an understatement. She was looking for a new start following a divorce that left her bankrupt and without a home. With no job and only one friend in the area, she said she made the trek from her native Georgia, with her then 3-year-old autistic son Spencer in tow, on nothing but a "hope and a prayer."
Slowly but surely Dorothee began to rebuild her life. She found a job, had a second son, Declan, and earned both an associate's and a bachelor's degree from Hesser College. It was while in school, in 2003, that she walked into the Elm Street office of what was then known as Manchester Neighborhood Housing Services.
"What I wanted was a level of stability for my family, the kind of stability that comes from owning your own home. I also needed space to set up an adaptive therapy room for Spencer, something I couldn't do in an apartment," she said.
Over the next five years, Dorothee said she took part in just about every educational offering made available by what is now known as NeighborWorks® Southern New Hampshire, from the introductory Homeownership Seminar to Financial Fitness classes to one-on-one counseling.
"I had gone through the wringer financially — everything from ID theft to bankruptcy. My credit was a disaster. NeighborWorks® Southern New Hampshire helped me work though these issues step-by-step to get where I needed to be," she said.
During this time Dorothee also opened an Individual Development Account (IDA), a matched-savings program, which she maxed out in two years' time. The dream of home ownership, however, would have to wait a little longer. By the time she saved up enough money for a down payment, she was out of work and unable to obtain a mortgage. When she found a new job, the housing market had exploded, driving home prices out of her reach.
"I was ready to pull my money out of my IDA. It just felt like it was never going to happen," she said.
But with her boys at the forefront of her mind, Dorothee held on to the dream of home ownership. In early 2008, Dorothee learned of the affordable townhomes available at Demetria's Crossing, a joint development of NeighborWorks® Southern New Hampshire and developer Dick Anagnost. By summer she, Spencer and Declan were settling into their brand new townhome.
"I can't say enough good things about everyone who helped me, especially NeighborWorks® Southern New Hampshire. Because of them we have a place of our own, a better quality of life," she said.
Homeowner Dawn Leighton talks about her foreclosure intervention counseling experience with NeighborWorks® Southern New Hampshire. Watch the video. Newly divorced and struggling to get by, Dawn Leighton’s monthly mortgage shot up by $1,000 due to a payment reset in 2011, causing her already shaky financial foundation to crumble. She was two months behind on her mortgage payments when she heard about the Making Home Affordable program, a part of the Obama administration’s strategy to help homeowners avoid foreclosure by working with lenders to negotiate loan modifications. She thought she had found a lifeline. “The application seemed pretty straight forward – I thought I could do it myself. It appeared all I had to do was send in copies of all of the right pieces of paperwork, but it ended up being a nightmare.” In attempting to find relief through the federal program, Leighton had to work through her mortgage company, a Florida-based firm that had gone out of business during the housing bust and reemerged from bankruptcy using a different name. The mortgage company, however, didn’t quite have its act together. Or it was purposefully stalling in an attempt to acquire her Sandown property, which unlike most properties in danger of foreclosure, was still worth more than what was owed on it. “I can’t prove anything,” she said. “All I know is that I would send in multiple copies of the necessary legal documents only to be told by the mortgage company – who would only talk to me once every two weeks – that they never received them and to please send them again. Or they’d say that form was the wrong one. Or that the document was illegible. It was awful, horrible.” In November, 2012, nearly a year after she first applied for relief through the Making Home Affordable program, she finally had an answer from the government, but it was not the one she was hoping for. Crestfallen with the denial, she reached out to the office of U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, as well as the New Hampshire Banking Department. Staff at both offices gave her the same advice: call NeighborWorks Southern New Hampshire. Leighton said she had never heard of the organization, and was honestly a bit skeptical. “I’d had another housing counselor at a different organization tell me that nothing could be done. But I was willing to do anything I needed to do to avoid losing my house, which I had just put on the market. “I didn’t want to sell my house, but I didn’t want to lose everything. I have lived on my property for 30 years. My nine children and seven grandchildren lived there. So many Christmases, birthdays, anniversaries, baptisms — it’s where everything takes place.” NeighborWorks Southern New Hampshire HomeOwnership Manager Paul McLaughlin reviewed Leighton’s case and helped her reapply for a loan modification through the federal program. There were ups and downs during the following months, but by the end of January, 2013 — two weeks before her house was scheduled to go to auction — McLaughlin called Leighton to tell her that her application had been approved. Her interest rate dropped nearly five points and her monthly payment reverted back to its original amount. “I'm not exactly sure what Paul did but I truly believe that we are in our home because I got the power of a HUD certified counselor behind me. My first response to anyone I have spoken to who is considering applying for HAMP is to hand them a card from NeighborWorks®. If I hadn't walked through the doors of their office I know we would not be living in our home now. I am forever grateful to NeighborWorks®.” she said. Resident Ali Mustafa talks about his experience with NeighborWorks® Southern New Hampshire. Watch the video.