The purchase of a first home can be a daunting task for any couple. Such was the case for Jesse and Claudia, who were on the verge of giving up on the idea after a hard struggle.

They’d been told by one organization that their debt-to-income ratio did not meet their requirements. They sought help from another non-profit organization but it also proved a dead end. “There were always issues,” says Claudia, issues that put the dream of buying a home on the back burner seemingly for good.

But then Jesse and Claudia heard about TRP Realty’s step-by-step home purchase program at an outreach meeting. It was there that they began to believe that, this time, they would finally be able to find a decent, affordable home and qualify for a loan.

TRP Realty is designed to help people become successful, long-term homeowners by providing financial literacy and debt reduction strategies, and then taking them through the process of looking for a home, applying for a fixed-rate mortgage, and closing on a new home. TRP Realty staff started Jesse and Claudia off with free financial counseling that allowed them to reduce their debt so that they would qualify for a home loan. Jesse and Claudia were then offered the option of purchasing one of the homes TRP has rehabilitated in Back of the Yards. The couple reached out to TRP in June of last year, and by March of this year, their dream came true: they had the keys to their new home.

Today, they are ecstatic about their home, which has been completely rehabbed and boasts an updated layout as well as new hardwood floors throughout. They purchased the home for $135,000, with a monthly mortgage of $1,000 and the added income of a downstairs rental unit.

“The nice thing about the program,” says Jesse, “is that it doesn’t set you up for failure. It ensures that you will not be placed in a position where you are susceptible to losing your home. Now we can even save. That way we are not working only to pay the mortgage.”

Jesse and Claudia have become part of the positive changes happening throughout Back of the Yards. “The change in the neighborhood is becoming more evident,” says Jesse. “Before, gangs were more prevalent in the area.”

Jesse graduated from the University of Illinois in Chicago with a B.A in Psychology and Latino Studies, and his wife Claudia received her Master of Science from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. So as more professionals like them begin investing in the area where they grew up, the Back of the Yards neighborhood is reaching a turning point.

“There is more leadership, and more people taking ownership of the neighborhood,” says Jesse. “People are doing more to improve their lives. There are more youth programs too. We have been fighting for a high school for the last 20 years, and now we’re getting one because of organizations like The Resurrection Project that work with others to finally get it done.”

Today, Jesse and Claudia are happy to have a place where their five-year-old daughter and their dog can run and play freely in their own backyard. They have already settled in as active members of their community.

“Before living here, I never lived in a place where there was a sense of community,” says Claudia. “There are roots here. I want to set an example. Being successful doesn’t mean making money and then leaving. Some of us need to stay behind to change the neighborhood.”

Together, Jesse and Claudia put in service requests for graffiti removal and pothole repairs. Jesse also volunteers as a leadership trainer and is part of a committee for a unified Back of the Yards. He hopes that TRP continues to do the work they are doing.

“If more people benefit from TRP Realty,” he says, “we stand to benefit too because it helps to stabilize the community. You’re getting home owners who are actually going to live here, not just purchase a property to flip it.”

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