Yulisa and her partner, Guillermo, stand among a cluster of volunteers, preparing for a day of touch-up paint. When she looks around, though, Yulisa sees beyond the baseboard in need of an extra coat of white. 

“I’m excited about just how hopeful I am that things are going to get better for my family,” she says. It’s Yulisa’s first day at Esperanza Place, the neighborhood that in a few months, she will call home. 

Blog Feature - HabitatEBSV.org -  750x510px  1-3Before they learned about Habitat, homeownership was a dream but not a tangible goal for Yulisa and her family. An East Oakland native, Yulisa has watched prices rise far past the point where she could afford to buy a home in her neighborhood.

“It’s been really hard, especially with the cost of rent going up,” Yulisa says. “I worry constantly that we’re one rent hike away from being displaced."

In her job as a leader in union organizing, Yulisa spends her days in a passionate pursuit of better opportunity for low-wage workers.

“I know that having access to good jobs is so important here in the Bay Area... sometimes, though, that doesn’t mean much, because your quality of life, all your money, goes to your landlord, so you’re not really ever getting ahead.”

Blog Feature - HabitatEBSV.org -  750x510px  3-3A chance at affordable homeownership, Yulisa believes, is key. “Having this program really makes a difference for the community and for people who otherwise wouldn’t have the option or the ability to ever own a home.”

For Yulisa and Guillermo, all their motivations are fueled by their 11-year-old son, Cesar. Cesar is nonverbal and autistic, requiring intensive therapy, and Guillermo devotes himself full-time to his care. “Thanks to Guillermo’s dedication,” Yulisa says, they’ve begun to see important milestones in Cesar’s development. 

Blog Feature - HabitatEBSV.org -  750x510px  2-3Consistency is the critical piece of Cesar’s care, which is where Yulisa believes homeownership will be transformative. “Cesar thrives on routine,” she says. “This will mean that I wouldn’t have to worry about getting displaced. We will be in a forever place where Cesar could build a routine for life.” And being on the construction site where Esperanza Place is being built, Yulisa can already envision that future. With BART and buses just steps away, she sees Cesar developing his independence as he grows into young adulthood. With “the community we’re going to build here, where we’ll look out for each other,” Yulisa sees a place where Cesar will feel rooted and connected.

All of her visions for the future revolve around the life she and Guillermo can build for Cesar. With the freedom of homeownership, Yulisa has plans to fully tailor Cesar’s environment, filling his bedroom with things that support his mobility, sensorial needs, and the consistency he thrives on. Instead of pouring more and more of their income every year into rent, she plans to build savings that will support Cesar for the long-term.

For now, Yulisa and Guillermo paint and install fixtures, hang shelves and secure railings – writing the next chapter of their family’s life.

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