When Kandiee Sterling became homeless six years ago, she was determined to make changes in her life.
“I made a whole bunch of goals for myself of where I wanted to be,” she shares. “One was fixing the credit, buying a house, and I want to do it all within five years. And Community Concepts helped me reach my goal within those five years, almost to the day.”
With nowhere else to go at the time, a friend gave Sterling and her daughters a safe place to stay until they were able to find an apartment at an affordable housing complex in Brownfield owned by CCI.
“[That friend] once told me I couldn’t do it all in one day. Just do 1% each day and you will get there. That became my motto. Still to this day,” she says.
After moving into her apartment, Sterling was soon introduced to CCI’s Self-Help Housing program and the program’s Group Worker, Susan Bradford. When she learned Self-Help Housing could help her buy a home, Sterling began working with Bradford and other staff members at CCI to reach the program’s income and other eligibility requirements. Sterling says she kept Susan’s number taped to her wall for almost five years, and would check in regularly to see what her next steps should be.
“She knew what she wanted, and she knew that she was going to be the one that did it,” Bradford shared. “It wasn’t going to be anyone else; it was going to be Kandiee.”
Sterling says it took her two and a half years to get her credit score up and her income to the level she needed, but during that time, she never stopped working towards her goals.
“I was in a time of my life where I had no hope, you know? I really didn’t. So, to have something to help me with my goals, it really gave me that extra push to be like, I can do it,” she says.
In April 2021, Sterling had everything she needed to officially apply for the Self-Help program, and by that Memorial Day, she received word that she was eligible.
“I was so excited when I got to call her up and tell her she was approved,” says Bradford. “We were both crying. It was the best day.”
Through the program, Sterling took a First-Time Homebuyer’s Education Course taught by Bradford, which she says gave her valuable information like how to apply for an FDA Family Development Account and tips for her home search. Self-Help staff members also helped her through every part of the homebuying process, including visiting each of the houses she was interested in and helping with program-required improvement projects at the home she ultimately chose.
“[The Self-Help Specialist] had an answer for everything. Which was great because I had no clue,” she said. “My other half helped build the front steps. I bought my first power tool and sander, and BOY did it take me for a ride. I was sanding the glue off the floor for the new flooring.”
Following several weeks of projects and learning new home improvement skills, Sterling signed the final paperwork for Self-Help Housing in January 2023, officially finishing the program and owning a home of her own. That day, she also sent a letter of gratitude to CCI, writing in part, “I have said thank you to everyone I was possibly able to. But, to them it’s just the thing someone would say. To me though, I’m saying thank you for so many reasons. Thank you for helping me at my lowest and helping me get to my highest.”
“This program gives people hope,” she says. “And that step up to be able to achieve something that seemed unreachable.”
To learn more about the Self-Help Housing program, visit CCI’s website at ccimaine.org/services/housing-and-energy/.