Chyla’s Story: A Home is built with Love and Dreams . . . And Hard Work

During her two-year journey buying a Habitat for Humanity of Omaha home, Chyla often thought about giving up because the process seemed “too hard.”

The single working mother had to collect numerous documents and financial statements and, like most applicants, work to resolve credit problems before being approved to buy a home.

Add to that spending every Saturday doing “sweat equity” construction work on other Habitat Omaha homes and projects to meet her requirements and pay the down payment on her new home. She also had to take classes on personal finance, homebuyer education courses and a Homeownership 101 program to help prepare her for owning and maintaining a home.

“This is a long (homeownership) process,” she said. “Sometimes, I was tired and didn’t want to do it anymore. But I’m glad I stuck with it because it is a blessing and my accomplished reward.”

Now, 12 years into owning her neat, modest north Omaha home, she’s very thankful. Homeownership brought her the stability and long-term security she sought for herself and her children, Kylen, 14 and Kylia, 4.

ChYla now works as a mortgage processor for Habitat Omaha. She was a personal banker for a local financial institution in 2008 when her father urged and encouraged her to apply for the homeownership program. She said he knew it would provide long-term benefits for her and her baby son.

When Chyla first applied to Habitat Omaha, she was hit with a blizzard of paperwork, including submitting bank statements, tax returns, W-2s, pay stubs and credit reports. Some of them had to be updated monthly and she kept Habitat for Humanity Omaha in the loop with any updates or changes throughout the home buying process.

Those necessary financial documents helped a Habitat counselor analyze Chyla’s financial status and identify the issues she needed to solve.

To reach her homeownership goal, Chyla and her counselor made a money management plan and set achievable financial goals. Required Habitat educational courses also helped Chyla budget and improve her financial status.

Chyla’s tax refund helped her to pay off debts, and she began saving money to reach her goal. She said one of the main things she learned was financial discipline. To pay off past collections, she missed out on concerts, trips and other entertainment. “Cutting back on entertainment was tough at that time, she said. “I was only 25, but I stayed determined, knowing these things would be available later. I told myself over and over again: Stay in the game! Be Strong! Hang on in there!

She also began saving money by cooking at home more and began to save $25 from each paycheck into a savings account. Her philosophy became out-of-sight, out-of-mind. “I began thinking the long-term ending (homeownership) is going to be my prize.”

Instead of spending money on entertainment, she spent more time with her family, developing closer relationships. She began to see she had been missing things by not staying home more often. “So then, I became more happy, and I was saving a lot more money.”

Gradually, Chyla’s financial status improved, and she was approved for a three-bedroom home. She found a rehabilitated Habitat Omaha house. “I fell in love with the big backyard, the garage and all the windows,” she said.

As the closing date grew near, she drove by the home daily with anticipation and excitement. “This is MY home” she would say. “This is not a dream!”

Finally, having cleared all hurdles, she and her son moved in. “I was overwhelmed and cried tears of joy,” Chyla said. “I didn’t sleep the first night we were in the house. I was up walking around thinking, ‘I can’t believe this.’ I was very thankful. This was the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Her son was equally excited and especially loved his new room. “He kept saying, ‘This is our home, Mommy,’” she said.

A dozen years later, Chyla feels buying her own house was one of the best things she has ever done. Now she has a place to call home, where she can host family gatherings, decorate it however she wants and make her house her own.

Chyla also has some advice for people beginning their homeownership journey. “It’s challenging,” she said. “So be persistent, be patient, work hard, be positive and hang on in there! Think about the prize at the end; it’s worth it.”

She said her hard work reflects her favorite Ralph Waldo Emerson passage: “A house is made with walls and beams; a home is built with love and dreams.”

Now, Chyla has the legacy she wants for her children. “They know what it is to be a homeowner, something that will soon be theirs. A safe haven built with love and dreams.”

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