Donna Leisinger, an administrative assistant, was tired of not having “a driveway, a basketball hoop, or a backyard." And she was “fed up with throwing money away” on rent. So when the long-time resident of public housing in Cuyahoga County, Ohio learned that the local housing authority had developed an Individual Development Accounts (IDA) Program to help Section 8 recipients save money toward homeownership, she jumped at the chance to participate in the program.
Donna contacted the housing authority's partner, WECO Fund, Inc., a nonprofit, community-based organization in Cleveland. "When I started in the program, I started packing for my new home," Donna recalled. With home ownership as her goal, she acquired the financial skills to improve her credit score and prioritize expenses. Her family changed its spending habits, cutting back on pizza delivery and Christmas presents.
Donna observed that once her kids saw how serious she was about saving for a house, “it wasn't hard to get them to buy in.” The older children helped by caring for their younger siblings so their mother could attend the classes and appointments necessary to complete the program.
At first, Donna wanted to buy a new car as well as a home, but IDA staff kept her focused on home ownership.
Donna’s hard work and self-discipline paid off; she and her children now live in their own home in a safe, well-maintained, quiet, friendly neighborhood only a few miles from her former apartment. "We care because we own, and it shows," she said. The monthly total for her mortgage, interest, taxes and insurance is less than her previous rent. When asked how this experience has changed her life, Donna noted "I've been independent my whole life, but now I feel like a successful individual because we own a home."
Donna is convinced that she has given her children something even greater than a desirable place to live. "Now they know you can achieve a goal if you set your mind to it."