A Dream Within Reach

“I sat on the bench, waiting for the bus to arrive, eating my cold lunch. ‘What am I doing?’ I asked myself. I didn’t know if this was going to work. “Am I Family holding handswasting my time?’ I sat there alone, crying, when all of a sudden a crow joined me in my tears. Its caw gave me the strength to move forward. I cheered up, got on the bus and knew that this was my last chance to reach my goal.” This was how Mrs. Juana Montelongo described her journey back home after her first pre-purchase counseling appointment. Mrs. Montelongo was an immigrant from Mexico with high hopes of reaching the “American Dream”.

She had struggled for many, many years to reach her goal of homeownership. She overcame the many stigmas that came with being a Hispanic, immigrant, trying to reach success for her family.  She was sixty four, working in a lemon packing factory for fourteen years.

In 2013, her husband suffered a stroke that left them with extensive medical debt. Not only were Mr. and Mrs. Montelongo forced to declare bankruptcy due to the overwhelming expenses, but Mrs. Montelongo became the head of household. Her husband recovered, but was never able to return to work. Mrs. Montelongo persevered and didn’t let this hold her back. Her father’s words resonated with her all along, “Yo no crié una hija que se daba por vencida”. Mrs. Montelongo had many years before attempted to purchase a home, but for more than one personal reason, was never able to move past the pre-approval stage. She finally told herself she was going to give it one more shot. She heard about Ventura County Community Development Corporation (non-profit housing counseling agency) from her realtor. Mrs. Montelongo figured she had nothing to lose. She made the long journey that required a brief walk to a bus stop, three bus transfers and another brief walk, but she made it through the doors.

VCCDC’s Homeownership Counselor, Gabriela Muñoz, sat with Mrs. Montelongo and assessed her situation. She needed to work on her credit, savings, and debt in order to make this dream a reality. Mrs. Montelongo came in by herself at first. She mentioned later that this was because this whole process was initially kept a secret until she knew that there was viable hope. She would leave work early in order to make it to the appointment, all while her husband and son’s thought she was still at work. When they would call after leaving our office, she would tell them she was on her way home, not mentioning where exactly she was coming from. When she would arrive with a handful of papers and they’d ask where they were from and for what, she said it was for work. Once she knew that traction was building, she told her family about what she had been doing. They couldn’t believe it. She told them this was her last shot and if it didn’t happen, it just wasn’t ever meant to be, but she could at least say she tried. Mrs. Montelongo stated, “this whole journey was so that once my husband and I died, my children could continue to have a home. I don’t want to one day leave this world worried about where they would end up.”

Mrs. Montelongo worked with Miss Muñoz for one year and two months and in the end Mrs. Montelongo was able to increase her middle FICO score by 56 points, Mr. Montelongo increased his by 44 points, they saved $7,667 and reduced their debt by $15,818. They were ready for the pre-approval stage. Miss Muñoz mentions that she “continually kept in touch with Mrs. Montelongo because [she] didn’t want her to get stuck at the pre-approval stage. [She] wanted her to give it her all, and if in the end it wasn’t meant to be, she had at least tried one last time.” Mr. And Mrs. Montelongo were successful in securing $55,000 in down payment assistance to make their dream a reality: they became homeowners. Mrs. Montelongo would like to thank Miss Muñoz and VCCDC Lending staff for their help throughout this whole process. As advice to future homeowners also pursuing the “American Dream” of homeownership, she says, “never give up… with a little perseverance and confidence you can also achieve this dream.”

Mrs. Montelongo’s story will be featured in the October HUD Newsletter “The Bridge”.