A Place of Their Own
Ofelia Ramos traveled to the U.S. from Guanajuato, Mexico, for the first time when she was 18, accompanying her brother and father to harvest grapes in California’s Central Valley. She returned many times for many other harvest seasons, until an opportunity arose that allowed her to secure legal status. Soon after, Ofelia met her husband Luis, and they started a family.
Life in the U.S. was not easy, and finding stable, clean, safe, affordable housing was probably the biggest challenge. “Many of the places we saw were poorly maintained and you couldn’t get landlords to make repairs,” explained Ofelia. While living in a small apartment in Calwa, California (a small community about four miles from downtown Fresno), neighbors informed the Ramoses of an agency in Fresno called the Housing Authority that provided apartments for low-income families. In 1993, the family moved into their first Housing Authority apartment, where they remained for eight years. As their family grew, the Housing Authority took note, offering them a newly-renovated, four-bedroom unit in 2000, which they took. Throughout those 17 years, the Ramoses say they had consistent support from the bilingual Housing Authority staff.
But the Ramoses were keenly interested in purchasing a home of their own, so they applied to numerous agencies without success, until they learned from a Fresno Housing Authority brochure, about the Housing Authority’s first-time homebuyer program. With the help of Housing Authority staff, the process was explained and the paperwork got filed. Ofelia and Luis attended orientation sessions. “They taught us about credit history, interest, even a little about family cooperation. It was a little like therapy for us and the whole family got more united.”
In March of 2010, the Ramos family moved into a brand new home in the Sierra Pointe development (a project of the Fresno Housing Authority). “This is a dream come true,” Ofelia says, “after work, now I’m happy… I go and rest at my own house.” She and Luis work at a recycling center; Daniel and Jessica, the two oldest children, are in college; Miriam and Sonya are in local public schools. Ofelia describes their new neighborhood as a close-knit, hard-working community. “We lived comfortably in our previous Fresno Housing Authority apartments, but it’s definitely better to be a homeowner,” Luis adds. “Es un sueño hecho realidad, y no lo cambiaria por nada.” (“It’s a dream come true, and I wouldn’t trade this for anything.”)