Franselene St. Jean raised her three younger siblings and her son, served one tour in Afghanistan and 12 years in the U.S. Navy, is about to graduate from nursing school, and has not hit her mid-30s.
Now St. Jean is waiting to move into her new home. St. Jean is one of the recent graduates of the District of Columbia Housing Authority’s homeownership programs.
“I want my son to see his mom had a goal, put her mind to it, and got him a home,” she said. “I didn’t have a home so I really wanted him to have a home.”
She continued, “Honestly, I never imagined I’d have my own place.”
St. Jean won custody of her then teenaged younger siblings in 2009. A surgical technician in the U.S. Navy she was deployed to Afghanistan, forcing her to leave behind her one-year-old son, two younger brothers, and a sister. A colleague would check on them while she was overseas.
She returned in 2011 and was overwhelmed. Her priority was to make sure there were healthy meals, homework was completed, and uniforms were bought. She got behind on her rent and the eviction notices began to arrive.
“I wanted to kill myself,” she said. “It was a lot. [Her family] didn’t know what was going on. There was so much on my plate. I didn’t know who to turn to or who to call.”
What happened next St. Jean describes as “a miracle.”
The person who answered the veterans suicide hotline listened to her story. The operator followed up with St. Jean the next day and suggested she look into an apartment house in Southeast called Fendall Heights. The affordable apartments, which are subsidized by DCHA and operated by So Others Might Eat, are dedicated to veterans with families, many of whom are females.
“I cry every day. I pinch myself. Is this a dream?” she said. “God is real. My brothers and sister wouldn’t be where they are today” without the supportive housing.
The eldest brother is doing well in the U.S. Air Force. The younger sister and brother are both in college. Her son, Ethan, is now six.
St. Jean said she heard about the homeownership programs at DCHA and “jumped on that.” She took classes on being a first-time home buyer, took advantage of community partnerships to improve her credit score, and received guidance from staff when dealing with lenders and real estate agents.
The classes are “very extensive” and taught St. Jean, who is still in the U.S. Navy Reserves, about each step in the process of buying her home and include everything from pre-approvals to inspections. She is able to use her voucher to support her mortgage for 15 years. She also is receiving support from the District’s Home Purchase Assistance Program for her new home in Southeast. She is set to close in late November.
When she moved into Fendall Heights, she had the opportunity to speak with DCHA Executive Director Adrianne Todman. St. Jean said she told Todman about herself and how much she appreciated the services she received.
Todman “said she was very supportive of women veterans and she said I would own a house someday,” St. Jean said. “She was very sincere and I would like to thank her.”
She also thanked SOME, her lenders, her real estate agent, and her many friends at the local Office of Veterans Affairs.