As soon as you meet Mildred and her daughters, you feel like family. The three of them are quick to laughter, with good-natured teasing tossed between them while they talk. It’s easy to imagine them filling their future home at Esperanza Place with joy and family and food – if they can agree on who does the cooking.
Eight-year-old Ashley insists that mom Mildred “actually makes the best chicken and rice,” while 19-year-old Gisselle jokes that mom “is trying to learn how to cook – she really has improved over the years!” Mildred argues that “it’s not that bad; you
guys are still alive!”
Whoever is at the stove, it will be in a kitchen – and a home – of their own at Habitat’s Esperanza Place in Walnut Creek. The idea is a relief to Mildred, one she describes as “a big blessing.” Though she feels fortunate for their current housing in Brentwood, Mildred knew it wasn’t sustainable. The owner, Mildred says, “increased the rent all the time. At one point I’m like, I cannot pay the rent, because it’s too much... What am I going to do? I’d have to get another job.”
Her job, as it happens, is vital to the community. Mildred works in an emergency department as a phlebotomist – a goal that Gisselle is working toward, too. Mildred has been on the front lines of the COVID crisis, an experience she describes as “very, very hard,” and “sad.”
Her first priorities, always, are her daughters. Providing them with a safe neighborhood and good schools, Mildred thought, “of course has a price. I do understand
that. So, unless I win the lottery, it’s going to be hard.”
When she learned about Habitat for Humanity, Mildred was cautious in her hope. “Maybe they have millions – maybe not millions, but a lot – of people applying,” she figured. “We’re not going to be one of them!” When she learned her family was selected, Mildred immediately called Gisselle in tears. The women laugh as they remember the conversation. Gisselle remembers asking her petite mother, “Shorty, calm down, what’s wrong? Why are you crying?” When Mildred cleared up the matter, though, she remembers, “The three of us started jumping. It was so exciting.”
Ashley is animated when she thinks of the future, one in which her bedroom is “pink, black, and white” with soccer decorations and the family dogs sleeping in her bed. Gisselle looks forward to a “sense of community” and the thought of “having our own home, that no one can take from us.”
For Mildred, “the stability of having our own place” is the biggest benefit she anticipates, and she is clear-eyed about next steps once they’ve moved in. “Finish my education,” she says without hesitation. She worked hard to achieve her Associate’s degree last year while juggling motherhood and a full-time job. She has her eye on x-ray school as her next goal.
Homeownership is one goal on a journey to many more goals for Mildred and her daughters, and it’s one that offers the security to focus on that future. “This is our house,” Mildred says. “We’re safe... we’re going to be fine.”