By Steve Palackdharry
Kienya Rudolph served in the military for 18 years, first in the Army and then the Marines. He fought in both Gulf Wars, in combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.
After Kienya returned home to Detroit in 2007, he and his wife Kathy bought their first home in Midtown. But even as Kienya embarked on civilian life, the toll and trauma of past combat continued. His health declined, leaving him unable to work because of chronic fatigue and migraines. Kathy had to quit her job to care for her ailing husband. The Rudolphs lost their home to foreclosure in the spring of 2012.
“We went from a successful two-income household to the working poor to borderline homeless,” says Kienya. “We stayed with various relatives as I desperately sought the help I needed from the VA Hospital and other places.”
Eventually, Kienya secured his retirement and medical disability benefits from the military. He and Kathy then looked to become homeowners again. However, even with a steady income, other financial issues seemed daunting to qualify for a mortgage.
“My credit was shot and we were deep in debt,” Kienya says. “So we decided to attend the credit building workshop at Southwest Solutions. We learned to take control of our finances. We made many small sacrifices to relieve debt and save for the day we could have our own home again. We were not seeking a handout, but a hand up, and that’s what Southwest Solutions provided, while treating us with dignity.”
In early October this year, Kienya learned from Southwest Solutions about the Detroit HomeLIFT opportunity that would soon be available. HomeLIFT is a special program from Wells Fargo, in partnership with NeighborWorks America, that offers down payment grants of $15,000 to eligible homebuyers purchasing a home in Detroit, Dearborn, Livonia, Hamtramck or Highland Park. Southwest Solutions is the lead agency implementing HomeLIFT in the Detroit area.
The Rudolphs had a home in mind that they wanted to purchase, located in the Marygrove neighborhood.
“Being a lifelong Detroiter, I wanted to remain in the city and do my part to strengthen a stable neighborhood,” Kienya said. “I think that every Detroiter should strive to have the title of homeowner. If we all do our part to take care of what we own, blocks will be stronger, neighborhoods will be stronger, and the city will come back stronger than ever.”
The Rudolphs made an offer on the home that was accepted. They went to Fifth Third Bank to secure a mortgage, and worked with Jaileene Tavarez at Southwest Solutions to apply for HomeLIFT. Hanna Robey, with Southwest Lending Solutions, helped coordinate paperwork.
The Rudolphs have a 30-year fixed mortgage. Their monthly house payment, which includes taxes and insurance, is $650.
“To say that we are extremely joyful to be in our home for Christmas is an understatement,” Kienya says. “We won’t have time to put up Christmas decorations, but we consider our new home to be our Christmas tree.”
The Rudolphs intend to put a lot of work into the home to make it truly their own. They befriended many veterans at the VA Hospital where Kienya continues to receive treatment and where Kathy has been volunteering. These fellow veterans will be helping the Rudolphs paint and renovate the home.
“Come back and see the home in June,” Kienya says. “You won’t recognize it!”
There is still ample opportunity to take advantage of the Detroit HomeLIFT down payment assistance program. To learn more, please visit http://www.swsol.org/lift.
– Steve Palackdharry is director of communications for Southwest Solutions