From her current perch in life, it is difficult to imagine anything but unbridled success in Julia’s story. She is a well-educated mother of three who loves her family, cherishes her grandchildren, and serves as chief executive at one of the most important recovery centers in Northeast Portland. She is bubbly. She has the confidence to speak her mind and a rare sense of empathy that enables her to listen to understand—qualities she suggests comes from being true to herself and true to her own complicated history.
Julia, though vibrant in her current life, is no stranger to adversity. From a jail cell, then a halfway house, she started from scratch to overcome odds that very few people in her situation ever do. Today, she uses her painful past as a source of strength. “Even my rough edges have a place in my life,” she says with a smile as she thinks back on the life she once lived. Julia stands firmly in her truth and that, she says, is what allowed her to grow beyond the chains of addiction and poverty.
From her lowest points in life, she’s broken free and climbed from one peak to the next. Once out of prison, she went back to school to earn her Bachelor’s degree, then two Masters Degrees. During this time, she also worked as a Case Manager at Central City Concern, a role she held for over 11 years. It was there that she was able to give back and help her clients rebuild their lives.
But even after all of the effort she put into rebuilding her own life, she herself was at risk of ending up on the streets. Julia’s landlord began threatening eviction and attempted to sell her house out from under her. She was horrified at the prospect of losing the home that kept her family together and the stability it meant to her recovery. By chance one morning, she spoke with a client who referred her to Habitat’s homeownership program—a conversation she said changed her life.
In a matter of weeks, her journey towards homeownership had begun. She was on her way to completing her “sweat equity” hours, taking free financial and homeownership classes at Habitat, and helping to build the home in which she and her son would soon live. The home, it turned out, would be much more than a place for her to recover—it would be a safe space for her family to live in peace and comfort. When she finally moved in, the affordable mortgage Habitat provided meant she could do more for herself and her family. And as the economy shrank into a deep recession, she felt protected, even confident that she would beat the odds and keep her home. The affordable mortgage meant that she could better protect her family’s future against the backdrop of an uncertain economy.
Fast-forward about 10 years, and she is more than halfway to paying off her affordable mortgage and continuing to work with recovering addicts—this time as the Executive Director of Miracle’s Club in North Portland. The demands of this new role, however, hasn’t stopped her from opening up her home to others in need. She has been able to take in her grandson and nephew and give them a safe, stable home to grow and learn.
What fueled Julia’s precipitous rise from the lowest points of her life? She’ll be the first to tell you—individual grit, love of family, and a stable, affordable home. She attributes Habitat as a key factor in her own recovery and to her ability to care for loved ones. When asked what her advice would be for anyone considering applying to the Habitat program, she says: “Go for it—with that foundation I was able to do so many more things in life.”