DREAMS New House
Sheila Rosco became emotional recently as she carried boxes into the place she plans to call home for the rest of her life.
“I’m just so overwhelmed and excited that I’m a homeowner,” Sheila said as her voice broke fighting back tears. “It was a long process, but I did this! My children are so excited and happy for me. I’m the first person in my family to actually be a homeowner.”
The mother of four reached her goal of owning a newly built, four-bedroom, three-bathroom home through a highly successful program offered through the Delta Health Alliance (DHA) that is providing the skills and means to build quality lives in the Mississippi Delta. Called Delta DREAMS, or Dollars Reinvested in Education and Assets to Maximize Success, this four–year-old program is changing futures by matching funds to assist Sunflower County residents and business owners with the purchase of a first home, a college education or capital for a qualified business.
“What I did was to build something that I can leave behind to my kids and my grandkids. So it never really ends,” Sheila explained. “To anyone thinking about doing it, I’d say just follow your dream and put your mind to it. Don’t say, ‘I need to do it,’ or ‘I should do it.’ Just do it.”
DREAMS is a community-driven collaboration between DHA and regional banks, economic development agencies, service groups, housing authorities, community representatives and faith-based partners all united by a shared vision of increasing economic self-sufficiency for low-income families living in rural communities in the Delta
Funding partners include Guaranty Bank and Trust Company, Mississippi State University and Delta State University.
The proof of the program’s success is in the numbers. Since beginning in 2015, DREAMS has matched $136,334.52 saved by program participants such as Sheila with $487,116.27. The breakdown:
- 189 people have successfully completed the DREAMS program.
- 182 of the participants have used the program to help with education, including 175 Mississippi State University students, three working moms saving funds for their daughters, three who have saved money for barber college and one working mom completing her community college education.
- 5 of the participants have used the program for their businesses, including a t-shirt designer, the owner of a barber school and the owner of a trucking company; and two working parents who have begun businesses.
- 2 of the participants, Sheila Rosco and Sharde McClure, have built and are building their first homes, respectively.
“Sheila wanted to build her own home from the ground up,” explained Alexis Hynes, program coordinator for DHA. “This sends a message that if you’re dedicated, your dreams can come true.”
For participants such as Sheila, who works for a home health agency, an individual must have completed a financial literacy course, or take a course within three months, and obtain certification. DHA offers a five-week Financial Education Boot Camp to help residents become more financial educated by reducing debt, establishing credit, learning to save and changing poor financial behavior.
Second, an individual must commit to saving at least $20 per month for a minimum of six months to two years with a maximum amount of $2,000 eligible for the match. (Sheila saved $100 a month.) So, for example, an individual who saved the maximum would have the money matched by Guaranty Bank ($2,000) and the federal government’s Assets for Independence program ($2,000).
Nikki Payne, DHA’s assistant vice president for Community Support and Outreach, said the program is open to anyone with the patience and commitment to see it through. “And for Sheila, it doesn’t stop here. Now it’s about maintaining her new home and creating generational wealth by having something to leave behind to her family.”
Asked if she planned to have a celebratory dinner immediately after she’s moved in, Sheila laughed and said, “No, I’ll be too tired. But I plan to have many holidays here with my family. And each month when I write my mortgage check, I’ll know it’s going toward something I own and not to a landlord. What a great feeling that is.”