Tiffany Porter is accustomed to helping other people. But she never expected the tables to be turned, courtesy of Habitat for Humanity.
Porter, a compassion ministry director for Victorious Life Church in Wesley Chapel, is the area’s newest Habitat homeowner, receiving the keys earlier this month for the home at 15054 Gainesville Road.
“I had no idea that Habitat even did this for people like me,” Porter said. “I thought they only helped single moms, or people who were destitute and homeless.”
In fact, Porter was trying to help a family get a Habitat home, and realized through the process that she actually qualified.
“So I said, ‘what the heck, let’s try this thing,’” she said. “My best friends kept telling me that all they could do is say no. And they didn’t.”
Porter, 29, grew up in New Mexico, but realized at a young age she wanted to be a pastor. But it was while she was in seminary, she discovered an even more direct calling.
“I wanted to be more hands-on and see people’s lives improve,” she said. “VLC gave me the opportunity to do that.”
Porter started as an intern at the church in 2003, and since 2005 has served as the compassion ministry director. She runs the church-owned Lily of the Valley food pantry outreach center in Wesley Chapel, where she not only helps feed those who are hungry, but provides other help when they need it.
That includes even her home, where she has served as a foster mother for teenagers who need a home.
“With my budget, I was not able to find a place that was able to foster a young child,” Porter said. Just before moving into her new home, she was living in a mother-in-law suite that was not in the best living conditions.
But now she can apply to take in younger children, thanks to having a safe home in a safe neighborhood.
And while Habitat’s mission is to provide homeownership for those who may not have had it otherwise, it’s certainly not a handout, said Stephanie Black, director of development and public relations for Habitat for Humanity of East and Central Pasco County.
“I think the biggest misconception is that Habitat gives away homes, but they don’t,” Black said. “We provide a zero-interest, no-profit mortgage, but it’s still a mortgage.”
Candidates for home ownership have to meet certain income levels ranging from between $11,950 to $31,850 annually for one person, to between $21,150 and $56,400 for a family of seven.
Families have to demonstrate a need for affordable housing and currently live in a substandard home. However, they also have to prove they can make mortgage payments, and have a steady job with no recent bankruptcies or court judgments.
“Most of our home payments are less than what people are paying for rent,” Black said. “That includes their taxes and their insurance.”
And while Habitat is always looking for volunteers, their biggest need recently has been qualified candidates.
Porter’s home was the 117th Habitat home built in East and Central Pasco County. It was constructed over a seven-month period, and was a women-built project. The entire construction crew was female, part of an international campaign to encourage more women to join construction teams typically dominated by men.
All of that is just a bonus for Porter, who is enjoying her new home with plans to stay in it for quite a while.
“I didn’t grow up here, but I just love this area,” she said. “I never know what might happen next, but right now, I don’t plan on living anywhere else.”
For more information on how to apply for a Habitat home, call (352) 567-1444, or visit www.ephabitat.org.