Friday, November 15, 2013 11:40 PM
Habitat gives woman new beginning
Wilson Habitat to break ground Sunday on 15th home
By Olivia Neeley Times Staff Writer
Crystal Cummings could have stayed. She could have given into the psychological and physical warfare of an abusive relationship. But instead she chose to leave and never look back. And since then, her life has taken a turn in a more positive direction.
"You never know how much strength you have inside of you until something bad happens to you and you have to fight through it,” the 29-year-old single mother said. "I’ve always been a survivor.”
On Sunday, Cummings will take part in a ceremonial groundbreaking to begin construction on her new home thanks to Wilson Area Habitat for Humanity. Cummings and her daughter, Seaira, were selected by Habitat’s Family Selection Committee to become the proud owner of the 15th home built in Wilson.
"At first I didn’t think I was going to be chosen,” Cummings said. "I’ve been going through so much stuff, transitioning and trying to get things back on track. You really don’t expect anything good to happen to you when a lot of bad has happened to you.”
But it all became real to her once she saw the land and the blueprints of her home.
"I started getting more excited and thought this is really going to happen,” she said. "This is real.”
The new home will be located at 1005 Atlantic St., less than a block away from Habitat’s 14th house, which was dedicated in December 2012.
"She has proven that she can be resilient,” said Hal Tarleton, Wilson Area Habitat for Humanity’s executive director. While family history is not a criteria to be chosen by Habitat, he said her fighting spirit is exactly what they hope for in a new homeowner.
"You can’t help but feel impressed by what she’s overcome,” Tarleton said.
While the house is not free, the homeowner will pay less in a mortgage payment than rent. There is no interest on the mortgage. Tarleton said with the last home they built the homeowner was paying $500 to rent an apartment, but now is paying $390 per month to buy her own home.
Cummings has already completed a financial education class and some volunteer hours.
"She has already gotten one step ahead,” Tarleton said.
Since Cummings is a single parent, she is required to have 200 hours of what they call "sweat equity.”
Cummings said she always had plans to own a home and land when she got older.
"But I didn’t expect it to be anytime soon,” she said.
Cummings has been through a lot in her life. Her father killed her mother and aunt as a result of domestic violence when she was about 2. As she got older, she fell into a pattern of abusive relationships. But she eventually decided to leave and break the cycle.
"Everybody’s childhood affects them differently and makes them turn into the person that they are when they’re older,” she said. "And I had a lot of issues when I was younger and I fell into that pattern of having those co-dependent relationships.”
Cummings said her most recent relationship led her down a path that spiraled out of control.
She was evicted from her Wilson home because her partner was taking the money from her paycheck and not paying the rent. She never knew the bills weren’t being paid. And it became a shock to her to receive an eviction notice.
While she had made prior arrangements for her daughter to live in a safe place, Cummings said, she continued to go down a destructive path, believing it was all for love.
She quit her job and moved with her partner to another state. But that decision proved to be a bad one. The life she was living quickly became intolerable.
She slept out of a car. She begged for money and food.
"My mind was totally warped at the time,” she said. "It was basically living from day to day.”
When she and her partner at the time, finally made their way back to Wilson after begging truck drivers to give them gas money, it was time to make a decision.
"I was tired,” she said. "When you can’t take it anymore, you can’t take it anymore. You’re just looking for any way out.”
THE DECISION TO LEAVE
When Cummings finally made the decision to leave, she sought refuge and help from the Wesley Shelter.
"I just felt like it was an opportunity,” she said. "I had never been to a shelter before. I’d never been evicted from an apartment before. I worked like I was supposed to. I had two jobs in high schools. I’ve always done what I had to do. My daughter has always been taken care of. So this was a totally different situation for me.”
After staying at the shelter for a few months she was able to find a job and get back on her feet. The Wesley Shelter gave her a safe place to stay, resources and tools to make her own situation better. The shelter helped her get an apartment and soon she was empowered.
Since then, her life has taken a dramatic turn.
"There were a lot of people who did so much for me since I’ve been here,” said Cummings, who is originally from Raleigh. "Everybody has always been helpful to me.”
She said the Wilson community was special in helping her not only see who she could be but what she has now become — a domestic violence survivor.
"I’ve never had that anywhere else,” she said.
A NEW CHAPTER
Cummings’ new home will have three bedrooms and two baths. Tarleton said they hope to begin laying the foundation in a couple of weeks. The last house Habitat built took about six months.
"We would like to finish this even faster than that,” he said. "We would like to get it finished by March or April.”
The lot the home will be built on was given to Habitat by the city of Wilson, he said. Cummings’ house will be known as The Wells Fargo House in appreciation of Wells Fargo’s contributions to Wilson Habitat over the past two years, officials said.
Cummings said she can’t wait until her home is complete.
"I feel like this is a new chapter in my life,” she said. "God has really looked after me.”
She said the house will show where she’s been in life while representing a future generation free of domestic violence.
"I want this house to be a positive thing for me and my family,” she said. "When that house is paid for I want it go to my daughter. She will have all the stuff she needs. It’s more for her than anything else.”
She she has been teaching her daughter how important it is for her to not only have self-esteem but to know that any person who doesn’t treat her with respect isn’t worth having in her life.
"My daughter has always given me strength,” she said. "When you have a child, it really changes your life. I don’t want any of this to happen to her. I want to be here to show her the right way.”
NEVER LOOK BACK
Cummings said she hopes her story can inspire those who are in a domestic violence situation to make the decision and know that they, too, can escape.
"There are different levels of domestic violence,” she said. "A lot of women are dealing with this. A lot of women don’t talk to anyone about it. A lot of women don’t call the police. My story is just one of millions. I just hope they understand they don’t have to go through it and that they can be happy.”
Domestic violence victims should know they have all the strength inside themselves to get out of the situation that imprisons them, she said.
"You always try to make excuses on why you can’t get out,” she said. "But it’s literally you walking out the door. Forget the toothbrush, the bag and the purse. All that stuff doesn’t matter if you really want to be happy. Walk out the door and never look back. You really can do that. It’s what I did.”
For help contact the The Wesley Shelter’s 24-hour crisis line at 291-2344.
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