Making a House a Home

HNHF Home Exterior

What does your home mean to you? For many people, home is a place of comfort, shelter and safety. It’s a refuge at the end of a long day and a place to build lifelong memories. For Alma Santos and her family, however, home had a different meaning.

Alma moved to the Southern Orchards community with her three children in June 2017. Their new home had been vacant for years and was damaged from two previous fires, but Alma chose to see its potential.

She loved the welcoming neighborhood, growing community and short commute to work. Her children loved the area, too. They were closer to school and enjoyed helping in the Southern Orchards community garden.

Shortly after moving in, Alma and her oldest son began working on repairs. The front porch was unsteady and sinking in. The siding was charred and falling off. The interior needed new flooring, drywall and electrical work. She hired a contractor to help with the major renovations, but began to worry when she saw no construction progress. Alma was quickly running out of money and resources. She had spent every penny of her retirement savings on faulty repairs that only made the condition of her house worse. Home had become a source of struggle and anxiety.

But then Alma’s community came to her side and offered to help. One neighbor told Alma about Healthy Homes, a nonprofit housing developer that has a home repair program that assists South Side homeowners with exterior repairs. Alma met the requirements, and applied for a grant through the program.

“When I opened the letter that said we were approved, I started crying,” says Alma. “This means so much to us. It’s truly a blessing.”

The Healthy Homes Home Repair Program provided a full exterior renovation on Alma’s home, including new roofing, siding, painting, landscaping, windows, doors, gutters, walkways and a safe front porch.

“With this help, we’re creating a more beautiful neighborhood and a safe home for my children,” says Alma.

After all the struggle and hardship, Alma’s family will finally have the home they deserve; a place of comfort, shelter and safety, a refuge and a foundation. For Alma and her family, home finally means happiness.

For more information on Healthy Homes, visit

This story was originally featured in the November/December 2020 HNHF Newsletter. Click here to download the full newsletter.