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Habitat Omaha’s partnership with homeowners

A conversation with Nicky Sullivan

Habitat for Humanity of Omaha’s partnership with homebuyers gives us the opportunity to help them move into a stable home and build a brighter future. This partnership continues even after a homeowner walks through the door of their new home.

Homeownership Success Supervisor Nicky Sullivan continues Habitat Omaha’s partnership with homeowners once they have secured a house by helping them navigate challenges and supporting them when life’s circumstances affect their finances.

Nicky works with homeowners from a few months to many years after they move in, supporting them through financial challenges, helping them navigate payment plans, and if needed, connecting them with counseling and other resources that can support them and help them get on track. Being a partner means spending time with the homeowner to understand if and how other factors may impact their ability to make their mortgage payments — such as health issues, stress, or lack of food.

In one case, a family came to Habitat Omaha after the father died in a house fire while trying to save the children. After the tragedy, they partnered with Habitat Omaha to purchase a home. Then, the mother became ill and was unable to work, leaving the family’s finances uncertain. Even though she had always paid her mortgage on time, the homeowner was concerned about reaching out to Habitat Omaha, worried that her home would be taken. Our team connected her to resources to access free dental and health care, food pantries and financial assistance. Payment was arranged for two months of her mortgage, giving her necessary financial relief and ensuring she can stay in her home until she is able to return to work.

For many, it can be intimidating to seek out the resources to improve their situation, and often, individuals and families may not know where to turn when things get hard. Nicky works with homeowners to provide assistance and follow up, but she says, ultimately, it is up to the homeowner to take the necessary steps. What she hears from them, once they do, is a sense of empowerment.

Life can present a lot of challenges, even in a normal year. This year, Nicky has noticed that the struggles for many homeowners are amplified. Daily stresses have been heightened by the pandemic, as worries about things like health care, racism, job security and housing increase.

Since the pandemic began, we have adapted to meet the new uncertainties and intense challenges facing people, calling all Habitat Omaha homeowners one by one to check in and see how they are doing. There are stories of individuals and families hit by COVID-19, struggling to pay their bills. Some have lost their jobs. Some are separated from family. Most say it has been incredibly difficult.

Even through challenging times, Nicky says there is a strong sense of family between Habitat Omaha and homeowners. She feels pride when a homeowner declines assistance so it can go to someone else in need. Many have called to check on the staff at Habitat Omaha, to make sure they are okay. And some have even collected resources to pass along to others who need help. Through her work, Nicky feels mutual empathy and thoughtfulness and realizes that Habitat Omaha is about more than housing; it is a way to treat one another.