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Fayetteville health care worker finally finds home

Iris Palin

DEC. 13, 2010 –

When a trailer park manager scammed Iris Palin, 50, out of her deposit, she knew she had lost another chance at finding a place to call home. She and her 14-year-old son had been living with family members for months; sleeping in the living room and clearing out whenever company came to visit.

“We would have to get up and either I’d go sit in my car and we’d ride or something until late hours, knowing that I had to go to work,” says Palin, a nursing assistant for 23 years. She works the night shift to provide for herself and her son. “I’m not looking for a handout. I work. I’ve been working. I’m a single parent, a provider, and it’s alright.”

The opportunity Palin desperately needed came when a co-worker told her about the Center for Economic Empowerment and Development (CEED). The Fayetteville nonprofit gave her the guidance she needed to be able to rent a home. Before long, she found herself looking at potential rental houses with CEED Housing Director Chris Gonzalez.

“Working with CEED, it was like a family because they all showed love and compassion and they were straight-up honest with me about everything,” Palin says. “They wanted me to do what I need to do, not them. They laid it out and it’s up to me to take charge of that.”

The house Palin eventually chose is a house that CEED renovated with support from the Initiative’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP). The program provides loans through the Initiative’s lending subsidiary, Initiative Capital, to organizations across the state to purchase and renovate foreclosed homes. The goal is to revitalize neighborhoods hit hard by the foreclosure crisis and increase the number of safe, affordable homes available for low-income families.

When Gonzalez took Palin to see the completed NSP house, Palin knew it was the one before she got out of the car. “We did not even walk into the house,” Gonzalez recalls. “She was out in the driveway and she said, ‘I’ll take it.’ I said, ‘Honey, you have to see it inside first!’”

For Palin, it was a gut feeling. “I just believe that God had this for me because of all the things that I had been through,” she says. “But look what happened at the end of that struggle.”

Working with CEED was dramatically different from Palin’s past attempts to secure housing.

“It’s hard to find funders or people that you can go to that really care about what they’re doing,” Palin says. “They mostly care about the money, what they can benefit from this. Believe me; I do believe that CEED is really straight because here I am in a home. And I just didn’t expect that. And look at the kind of home that I’m living in. Not a trailer park, but a house. It’s a good shelter; it’s a nice home. And that makes a difference.” 

The house offers Palin’s son opportunities most teenagers take for granted but that he has never known – a room of his own, a sense of privacy and the ability to invite friends to study or play games.

With the stress of finding a place to sleep at night finally off of her shoulders, Palin can now focus on her longtime goal of earning a degree in nursing.

“This is the stability that we need for me to go on,” she says. “This is the first step and the next step is right ahead.”