Habitat townhome provides stability

Bellevue family facing serious health and housing challenges receive home

By Teresa Moore

For Habitat for Humanity

Life isn’t meant to be lived in cheap motel rooms — especially for a single mother with multiple sclerosis (MS), a teenager with cerebral palsy, a boy with ADHD and an 11-year-old girl yearning for stability. But, before Habitat for Humanity stepped in, the homeless Wilson family had no other choice.

Mercer Island native Joanne Wilson lived a dream life before those miserable motel days set in. She had a loving family, was an active athlete, earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business, landed a high-paying job in Silicon Valley, married an ambitious guy and had a fancy home in Bellevue.

Then, in her late 20s, Joanne began experiencing odd symptoms — vertigo, vision problems, slurred speech, weakness in her limbs and debilitating fatigue. When she was diagnosed with MS, “I wiped away my tears and from that day forward, I told myself I’m going to live.”

But it wasn’t easy. After moving back to the Seattle area in 2001, her fatigue and vision issues made it impossible for her to work. Joanne and her husband set about building their family and in six years, they had Cameron, Ashton and Chloe. A new MS drug made it easier to manage her symptoms.

As she was still struggling to find the best care for Cam’s cerebral palsy and when her youngest was just a year old, her husband asked for a divorce. As Joanne’s savings and support payments dwindled over the next several years, she could no longer afford any suitable housing.

“We’d try living with my parents, but they’re elderly and with three kids in the house — two with special needs — it was too much for them,” Joanne explains. “So, we’d go camping and live in motels.”

Sitting in the office of a food bank/homeless assistance organization, Joanne spied a flyer about Habitat for Humanity.

“I thought Habitat just built homes in third-world countries. I didn’t know they were here — and in Bellevue,” she says.

Within a few months she’d qualified, painstakingly put in her sweat equity at a Habitat Store and moved into a disability-friendly, one-story townhouse in a 10-unit Habitat complex in Bellevue — a home repurchased from another Habitat family that had just moved out.

“We’d been homeless for almost a year, so this home means the world to me and my kids,” Joanne says. “They finally have security. They’ve always wanted a dog and we now have Daisy. We love it. And my mortgage is affordable on my disability payments.

“Now, I can work on my health. I don’t have the stress of where I’m going to stay, am I going to have enough money, will it last long enough. I can start saving money for my kids’ college. And it’s all because of Habitat,” she said.

To learn more about Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King County go online to www.Habitatskc.org or contact chief development officer Amy Farrier at amy.farrier@habitatskc.org, 206-456-6943.

In Seattle-King County and around the world, Habitat for Humanity brings people together as volunteers, homeowners, donors and community members to create strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter. Here , Habitat for Humanity constructs affordable homes, revitalizes neighborhoods, repairs homes for low-income people and seniors, operates discount home improvement stores in Southcenter and Bellevue, and mobilizes more than 4,300 volunteers a year.