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Rock Hill Habitat volunteer moves into her Habitat house

"I went from homeless to my own house."

The journey wasn't easy, said Tammy Heath, who on Friday spent the very first night she's ever spent in a house she can call her own.

She thanks Habitat for Humanity of York County and the Women Build program for helping put that roof located on Crawford Road in Rock Hill over her head.

And generous people for giving her rocking chairs and a potted plant on her new front porch.

"I never thought I could help build my own home," said Heath, a 43-year-old mother of four.

Five years ago, Heath volunteered with Habitat, painting someone else's house.

"I love volunteering," said Tammy, who works as a unit secretary at Piedmont Medical Center.

But she never thought one of those homes could be hers until a man working alongside her said exactly that.

It didn't sink in until Tammy found herself cycling in and out of other people's homes and eventually laid off from her job and losing her car.

The next thing she knew, she was turning to a local shelter.

Remembering what the man said, Tammy thought of Habitat.

Her first application for home ownership was denied due to bad credit and unpaid medical bills that just seemed to pile up, she said.

"They have to be sure you can pay a mortgage" before accepting candidates into the program, she said.

At that point, the 43-year-old mother of four wanted to give up, she said.

But she didn't. Instead, she saved money, reduced her bills, and took classes on managing a budget and a home.

"I did what they (Habitat) told me to," she said.

Habitat, a nonprofit, Christian housing ministry, doesn't give houses away for free.

Recipients pay an interest-free mortgage which goes toward building other homes. They also contribute a down payment - hundreds of hours of "sweat equity" working with a team of volunteers to build their own home and others'.

The new home will give Heath some stability, said Tim Veeck, executive director for Habitat for Humanity of York County.

Heath also brought an "easy-going personality and friendly spirit" to the construction site, Veeck said.

Women Build volunteer Angie Simpson said she enjoyed working with Tammy.

"I admire her for her dedication," Simpson said. Tammy was always on site, always working and "always supporting...and appreciative of everybody that was there."

Working on Tammy's house created many friendships and gave women a chance to participate in the hands-on construction of a home, Simpson said.

The program empowers women, which is very important, she said: "They need to know they can do this,...know they can help each other in this way."

Tammy and her daughter, D'Asia Heath, 15, are ready to move in.

D'Asia said she looks forward to having her own room "for the first time in a long time" and decorating it with lime green paint.

And Heath is ready to "enjoy life, enjoy the new house," she says.

Even the ceiling fan, which she picked up at a local hardware store, makes her beam from ear to ear.

She finally feels at home, she said.

Her message to others: work hard and don't give up.

"If I had just given up that day when they denied me once, I wouldn't be here," she said.

"I never gave up, and this is the result."

Homelessness

According to the S.C. Council on Homelessness, there are more than 4,700 people in the state either in shelters or out on the streets.

In York County, according to the latest count, there were 185 homeless people. Of that, 29 were families.

Of the 185, 60 percent were living in shelters.

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