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Chiquette Johnson vividly remembers the fear that gripped her four years ago when her son was born with a lifelong, debilitating disease.
Chiquette’s son was born with a congenital genetic disorder and is wheelchair bound.
“I remember the first time I held him, I had this feeling of joy and pride, of course, but I also worried that I wouldn’t be able to care for him where we lived,” said Chiquette, describing her small, duplex that wasn’t handicap accessible.
Chiquette is a single mother of two children, Conner, who has the genetic disorder, and 11-year-old Cory. When Chiquette learned about the Habitat program, she inquired about the possibility of making her future home adequate for Conner.
“My goal since Conner was born was to have a home where I can raise both of my boys in a safe place – a place where I don’t have to worry about what I would do if I had a fire and can’t get Conner out,” she said. “That was my big fear. That’s beyond the daily worries about baths and getting his wheelchair around the house for normal activities.”
Habitat Spartanburg modified an existing floor plan to widen doorways, create a no-barrier threshold for the front entrance, and incorporated a full turnaround bathroom with a large shower stall. Habitat Spartanburg extended the driveway up the side of the home so when Chiquette parks, the back of her car is level so she can easily remove Conner’s wheelchair.
In a unique partnership with the Spartanburg Housing Authority, Chiquette’s home was sponsored by the Department of Labor’s YouthBuild Program, which gives low-income young adults an opportunity to transform their lives and give back to community. Program participants attend classes and GED preparation workshops while gaining hands-on construction experience with Habitat.
Chiquette and her two children have lived in their home for just over a year.
“I can’t begin to describe the difference this home has made for us,” Chiquette said. “In our old duplex, I couldn’t turn Conner around in the bathroom, I couldn’t give him a proper bath – the space just didn’t work for us and would never have been able to accommodate our needs.”
Chiquette said having access to a shower and having the ability to move Conner’s wheelchair in and out of the home was life changing.
Chiquette’s home was one of seven homes Habitat Spartanburg completed last year, mostly inside the City of Spartanburg, but we’re also extending into other areas of the county.