This Thanksgiving Season, Immigrant Family Gets New Home in Spokane
By Loren Negron
Immigration poses many challenges and for the Yaitskaya family, finding their own home was a hurdle they needed to overcome when they left their native country.
But through a partnership with Habitat for Humanity, the Yaitskaya’s will be moving into their new home next week — a blessing the family is grateful for during this Thanksgiving season.
Sofya Yaitskaya immigrated from Russia to the U.S. in April 2019 with her husband, Evgeny, and daughter, Ekaterina. The family decided to move when Sofya’s sister, Irina, invited them to live in the U.S.
Irina immigrated to this country about 30 years ago. Sofya said she wanted to be closer to her sister and her mother, Julia, who moved to the U.S. in 2015.
“It was a good opportunity to work, to try to live in another country,” she said.
When the Yaitskaya’s arrived in the U.S., they first lived with Irina as they settled down and tried to build their lives in a new country.
“You come to country. You don’t have a credit story. You don’t have a rental story. Nobody knows about you,” Sofya said.
Sofya, Evgeny and Ekaterina take English as a second language (ESL) classes. Sofya learned basic English in Russia so it was easier for her to learn the language.
Sofya finished the ESL classes last year and now takes an English prep course through Spokane Community College. She is in her first quarter and attends the class twice a week. She said it’s an opportunity for her to meet new people and gain new experience.
In November 2019, a spokesperson from Habitat for Humanity Spokane gave a presentation in one of their ESL classes. The individual talked about the organization’s homeownership program, which Sofya was initially skeptical about.
“I didn’t trust in this. And I told my husband, ‘I think they are crooks. I don’t believe in it,’” Sofya said. “But he said, ‘let’s try.’”
Around that time, they were living in an apartment but were struggling financially to pay rent. Sofya and Evgeny eventually submitted an application for the homeownership program in December 2019 and their application was approved in June 2020.
Michelle Girardot, CEO for Habitat for Humanity Spokane, said the program promotes the organization’s mission of putting God’s love into action by building homes and communities, as well as spreading hope.
Girardot said individuals and families need to earn below 80 percent of the area median income to qualify. Habitat for Humanity uses the applications to determine if applicants can afford to pay their mortgage and help them identify what type of home they can afford. Homeowners in the program pay no more than 30% of their monthly income for their mortgage.
“This isn’t an overnight program,” she said. “It takes about a year to a year and a half from acceptance into the program to the closing of the home, when they sign the closing documents — that’s when they receive the keys to their home.”
During that year-long period, families work to complete 200-250 hours of sweat equity. This includes attending budgeting and finance workshops, learning how to conduct home maintenance and investing in volunteer hours.
Not only are families growing to become successful in their finances, but they are helping to build their own homes and their neighbors’ homes. Girardot said this is a critical part of their homeownership program and allows people to build community with one another.
“There’s a lot of people in our communities that don’t even know who their neighbors are and being able to lean on each other just makes it for, you know, feel safer,” she said. “You feel more connected to your community.”
The Yaitskaya’s completed about 300 hours of sweat equity. Sofya and Ekaterina volunteered at Habitat for Humanity Spokane’s store, while Evgeny worked with volunteers to build their home.
Evgeny Yaitskaya volunteered with Habitat for Humanity Spokane volunteers in building his family’s home/Contributed
Sofya said Evgeny met great people while working in construction. Evgeny does not speak English well so he communicated and connected with others using a translator on his phone.
“When he started to work, our home didn’t exist yet. It was just a huge hole in the ground,” Sofya said.
The Yaitskaya’s completed their sweat equity hours about three months ago. And last Friday, they had their pre-closing meeting with Habitat for Humanity Spokane. Girardot said this type of meeting gives families an opportunity to ask questions and understand what exactly they are signing during the closing meeting.
On Monday, after more than a year of investing into their new home, Sofya and Evgeny will sign their closing documents and will receive the keys to their house.
Sofya and Evgeny Yaitskaya pose in front of their home/Contributed
Sofya is excited for her family to move into their new home. She is also thankful to God for everything He is doing for their family.
“I’m grateful for Habitat for Humanity for the opportunity to have our own home. I’m grateful for the volunteers and for the people who donated money so we can have our place to live and call it our home,” Sofya said.
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