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Originally posted: NOV 01, 2012

Leaving his parents’ house at age 18, Kenneth (Ken) Harris had no idea that it would take nearly thirty years before he would regain a stable roof over his head. Harris had made a commitment to his country by joining the US Army. He thought that when he returned, he might go to air traffic control school. However, like many vets, he became a member of the homeless community. To get by, he relied on family members, sleeping on their couches and accepting their hospitality. Other times, he had to sleep in his car.

“I once spent a whole summer out by I-95 sleeping at a rest stop,” Harris recalled.

It was Father’s Day 2008 when he decided it was time to change his life. Listening to a speech by Barack Obama, he decided he was “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” The speech must have resonated with him, because within four years, he had completely turned his life around. With the same dedication and hard work that he demonstrated as a young man, Mr. Harris researched ways to pay off his debt, improve his credit score, and gain financial stability. He also secured a place in a local transitional housing program for homeless veterans, Q-Life. When he came across a Habitat for Humanity flier, he was prepared. He contacted DC Habitat and began taking the steps to become a homeowner.

“I was selfish when I was young,” he admits, but says that working on other people’s houses through Habitat’s sweat equity program has changed his perspective.

“When you’re out there, sweating, tearing up concrete in the heat, for no pay, it gets you thinking,” he said. Mr. Harris hopes to continue volunteering even after becoming a homeowner. He said he hands DC Habitat fliers out to people because often they don’t know about the opportunities that exist. When asked about his hopes for homeownership, he mentions cooking, moon walking to Billie Jean, and inviting his family over to his home for a change. Most of all, he said, “I’m just going to lock the door, sit and relax.”