Homeownership Oct. 21, 2022

Our keys change lives: Carolyn and Shelby’s story

Today, music is ever-present in Carolyn and Shelby’s home, from jam sessions to polka dancing to even game show theme songs.

Just six years ago, such a symphony was out of reach for the mother and daughter. Then, their home of 16 years – a small mobile trailer in Salisbury, a tight-knit community outside of Moncton – was becoming unlivable: the walls were full of mould, the patchwork floor was rotting, and the roof was leaking due to water damage. It also had no insulation, making it very cold in the winter and expensive to heat.

Being blind, Shelby was not fully aware of all these issues, leaving Carolyn to bear much of the burden by herself: “there was nothing I could do at that point, so I didn't really relay how bad everything was,” she explained. “You know, that's what you do as a mom.”

As with many small villages around the country, Salisbury lacks affordable housing. Most jobs are minimum wage or require expensive commutes to the city, leaving Carolyn and Shelby stuck. That is, until they were approved for a Habitat home. Through Habitat for Humanity Moncton’s affordable homeownership program, Carolyn and Shelby purchased their home with a zero-interest mortgage geared to their income and by contributing 500 mandatory volunteer hours.

“I was very emotional when it came through that year because I knew our trailer was not going to make it,” Carolyn recalls.

Their home was completed in just three months as the community rallied around them, many of whom knew them through Shelby’s performances at local churches and other events.

Shelby, a multi-instrumentalist, cites music as an important tool in managing anxiety. She has loved music since she was a toddler. “My play-pen was next to the piano and I just started pinging on random notes,” she recounts. “And I thought, geez this is neat!” Shelby now plays piano, accordion, occasionally the flute/tin whistle, and is working on trumpet, and has a knack for memorizing songs along with being able to play them after listening to them only a couple of times.

With the larger space granted by their new home, Shelby’s musical possibilities have expanded. There is now enough room in the living area to jam and rehearse with her musical partner Terri, with whom she is looking forward to touring with again one day soon. It also allows her the space to cook with her personal support worker instead of at the office kitchen in town, while cutting the commute provides time to get other activities done together.

Being a homeowner has provided them with a sense of security, not only now knowing that they have a safe place to live without breaking the bank but also long into the future. “Everybody wants to make their kids' lives better,” Carolyn explains. For her, having a house is a key part of that: with both their names on the deed, Carolyn can now be secure in the knowledge that Shelby will be safe and secure in their home long after she’s gone.

Their home not only allows them to get by but have a better quality of life.

“We have reliable heat, we have insulation, the air we’re breathing is clean, and we don’t feel like we’re going to go through the floor. And that all makes for a better, happier us,” says Carolyn. “It means everything to have a home.”