For years, homeownership felt impossible. Then she bought her first home.

Twana used to see homeownership as a giant obstacle course, with endless paperwork and strict financial requirements.

The Philadelphian had been living in a subsidized housing unit for years when her rent increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. The rent hike made Twana feel like she was paying down a mortgage without any of the benefits of homeownership.

“Now I’m willing to go through these obstacles because I don’t want to be paying $1,800 a month when I could be owning my own home,” Twana said.

She called Clarifi and set up an appointment with her counselor, who helped her create an action plan concentrated on going over her monthly budget, improving her credit score, paying down debt, and taking a first-time homeowner class.

After raising 9 children, it was time for stability. I was ready to be settled. I’m growing older now. I can say this is something I actually own.

Twana, Philadelphia homeowner and Clarifi client

“Going through Clarifi relieved that ‘obstacle’ myth I had in my mind,” Twana said. She was paying bills off, tightening her expenses, and taking steps to get prequalified for a loan. She learned how much money to save for repairs and other unexpected expenses as a homeowner. The homeownership class “elevated me to spend wisely,” she said.

Twana found a real estate agent and began house hunting in Northeast Philadelphia. She walked into one home, looked at her agent and said, “This is the one I want.” After touring so many homes, she felt excited in a way she hadn’t been before. She had a vision of where she’d put all her furniture and how she’d decorate her future home.

Twana thought the home buying journey would be longer, but with her counselor keeping her on track, she closed on her first home in October 2020—just eight months after her first Clarifi session.

Because of the grants she received as a first-time homebuyer, Twana spent less money on the down payment and closing costs than she had anticipated. With the extra money, she decided to give back and create a coat drive.

“I got to bless 300 kids that first year,” Twana said. “I was blessed, and now I got to bless somebody.”

She formed a nonprofit as a result, dedicated to keeping children warm every fall and winter and providing other community services. Twana named it Darlene’s Safe Haven after her mother, who died from cancer in 2012. Darlene loved the church, the neighborhood kids, and giving back.

Instead of a lofty rent payment that goes nowhere, Twana’s mortgage is paying her back in the form of equity. She’ll get to pass down that wealth to her children.

“It was an amazing feeling to become a homeowner,” Twana said.

Her next goal?

Buy another home.