For the Auburn Reporter
From a homeless shelter in California to a sand-filled military tent in Kuwait to the 15 often-rundown rental homes she later shared with her children, Tenee Baker had always longed for stability.
That wish came true when Habitat for Humanity recently approved her for a home in a new veterans’ community in Pacific.
Still, she was hesitant to celebrate.
“We’d moved around so much between the military and everything that happened afterwards, and I didn’t want to disappoint my kids again,” she explained. “I breathed a sigh of relief to get the news, but I’d spent so long waiting for the other shoe to drop, I wasn’t going to believe it until the keys were in my hand.”
Baker’s housing instability began when she was a teenager. Traumatized by a sexual assault and fragile family relationships, Baker wound up homeless for six months. She joined the U.S. Army Reserve, going through basic and advanced training in munitions, and held private-sector jobs in several different cities.
Then, the country was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001.
Baker was called to active duty at a staging ground in Kuwait, leaving 2-year-old son Jadon in the care of her mother. The deployment resulted in physical ailments and PTSD that eventually led her home.
Years of struggles with misdiagnosed illnesses and challenges to military benefit decisions followed before Baker completed her college degree and secured a job as a biomedical equipment support specialist with the Seattle VA Hospital. By then, daughter Saniyah had joined the family.
Just as Habitat was about to provide that long-desired stability, a forgotten student loan threatened to disqualify Baker from securing a mortgage.
“It was devastating to get so close and almost see it not happen. Habitat could’ve given up on me, but they helped me instead,” Baker said. “Now, I believe it – this is mine. We finally have a permanent home.”
To learn more about Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King County visit Habitatskc.org or contact Chief Development Officer Amy Farrier at firstname.lastname@example.org, 206-456-6943.