By Liberty Ferda
Imagine this scenario: You decide you want to own a home someday but can’t imagine how you’ll ever save enough for a down payment. Maybe it’s tough enough to support a family on your income and your biggest monthly expense—as for many people— is rent. You have to pay to live somewhere, of course, but how could you really get ahead in such a situation?
This is exactly the dilemma that Open Hand Ministries’ Transitional Rental Program addresses. While families prepare to own a home—building financial health through Circles, helping with renovations, and more—they live in a property owned by Open Hand and pay rent below market rate. A portion of that rent payment goes into an escrow account that will go toward the new home. This way, renting isn’t a barrier to building wealth but actually serves as an avenue for saving.
For Miss Reed, it’s made all the difference. For 10 years, she’s been dreaming of owning her own home for herself and her three daughters—now 12, 13, and 16. She loves the East End of Pittsburgh and has spent thousands to landlords to stay here. Recently, she’d paid steep rent at one of the newly built developments in Garfield. Hoping to save more, she and her daughters then moved in with her mother on the West End of town. The small space was difficult, and the living situation even put a strain on Miss Reed and her mother’s relationship.
Now Miss Reed is part of Open Hand Ministries, and since September 2016, she’s lived in a two-bedroom property owned by OHM.
“It’s an extremely large apartment, and it accommodates us well,” Miss Reed says. It meets her needs for affordability and space, and she’s able to live in the neighborhood she loves while preparing for permanence as a homeowner. Meanwhile, in Circles, she’s working on getting her finances in check. She finds that the support network is key.
“Having people make sure you have a budget and holding you accountable is helpful. And it’s not just about saving or having good credit—it’s why don’t you have money to begin with, what are your real emotional barriers, how might you think about money if you grew up poor.”
Although Miss Reed has briefly enrolled in other local housing programs, Open Hand’s process with such a robust support system has been the most effective for her and her family.
“The small things go a long way,” she says. “OHM helped us with moving expenses. There’s always childcare at Circles—things like that.”
Miss Reed is looking ahead to the Fall of 2018, when she’ll move into her very own home: a dream come true.