Selena Peterson with son Zyair. "I tell others who face similar struggles, put yourself out there, listen, make sacrifices and have patience," she said. -Photo by Habitat MontDelco / Wesley Brown

Montgomery County resident Selena Peterson ended a 14-year journey from shelters, apartments and transitional housing on Saturday morning.

During a home dedication alongside family, friends, and Marianne Lynch, CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Montgomery and Delaware counties, Peterson received keys to a beautiful three-bedroom, two-bath home in Bridgeport.

From homelessness to home ownership, Peterson’s story gives other millennials hope at a time when many are struggling with rising rents, some from the impact of gentrification, student loans, and dimmer prospects of owning a home by the time they are in their mid to late 30s.

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It’s the first permanent home for the young mom and her 16-year old son Zyair.

“Sure, I felt like giving up sometimes,” Peterson said. “Now I tell others who face similar struggles, put yourself out there, listen, make sacrifices and have patience. I compare my story to a cake—the batter has to be beat up, but in the end, it comes out beautiful and golden.”

Peterson found herself on the path of homeownership after participating in the Almost Home financial empowerment program. Habitat for Humanity of Montgomery and Delaware Counties’ (Habitat MontDelco), Almost Home project is a six-week program designed to help prospective homeowners achieve financial stability.

Peterson came to Habitat MontDelco through Your Way Home, Montgomery County’s public-private partnership dedicated to ending homelessness throughout the county.

The program coordinates with partners including Habitat MontDelco to improve the housing stability, economic security and health of families and individuals experiencing or at imminent risk of homelessness. Since its inception in January 2014, Your Way Home has reduced homelessness in Montgomery County by 37%.

“I learned to manage my money, establish a budget, read my credit score, save for the future and overcome obstacles,” Peterson said.

“Selena has such tenacity. She just wanted a chance and she just needed the vehicles to help her journey to self-sufficiency,” said Habitat MontDelco CEO Marianne Lynch. “For her, those vehicles were Almost Home and Your Way Home.”

It took Peterson three years after completing Almost Home. She struggled with rising rents and low paying jobs, moving from a shelter, to a rental home, and back into a shelter followed by transitional housing. Still, she remained motivated.

After investing 200 hours of sweat equity, Peterson is purchasing the home from Habitat with affordable monthly mortgage payments.

“Her success is a testament to the importance of sticking with someone until they become stable,” Lynch said. “That takes a holistic approach—the kind that’s happening in Montgomery County through Your Way Home and partnerships with organizations like Habitat MontDelco.”

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