Series| Catalysts
From homeless to homeowner with a $6K fixer-upper

This community initiative is helping low income, first-time home buyers find their perfect fixer-upper.

Watch on YouTube
In partnership with

The steep climb in today’s housing prices, low inventory of homes for sale, and labyrinth of steps required to apply for a mortgage can be daunting for first-time home buyers, especially low-income families.

Stagnant wages have left many individuals feeling priced out of homeownership. One report showed that minimum wage earners would have to work 127 hours per week to afford a standard, two-bedroom rental home in most parts of the U.S.

Now, a real estate brokerage called Acts Housing has created a model that is empowering low-income families to turn their dreams of homeownership into reality.

The Impact of Inconsistent Housing

The U.S. housing crisis is leaving many without basic human needs. Last year, homelessness rose for the third year in a row.

Inconsistent housing impacts individuals in a variety of ways. Along with the fact that low-income families are typically forced into substandard housing situations which expose them to numerous physical health risks, research shows that lacking consistent housing can have a traumatic impact on an individual’s psychological health.

Statistics show that moving three or more times in one year can lead to children having chronic health conditions. Pregnant women who are homeless are much more likely to deliver preterm or low birthweight babies. Those with inconsistent housing are also at a heightened risk of depression, substance abuse, and premature death.

Many of these families consist of hard-working individuals who are trying to improve their circumstances yet feel as if, no matter what they do, they’ll never be able to afford steady and safe housing. As a result, most low-income families have been forced to rely on renting, which doesn’t help them save money in the long run. 

Empowering People Through Homeownership

As it stands, the current system focuses heavily on infrastructure with a top-down approach. There is so much red-tape and profiteering throughout the process that it is easy to understand why many forego homeownership and choose to rent instead.

When Acts Housing began operations in 1995, the mission was to provide a manageable and navigable path to homeownership for first-time home buyers. They created a model that was the first of its kind, offering support for every step of the home-buying process.

The process begins with a counseling program that helps buyers fully understand all the pros and cons that come with being a homeowner. They also have real estate agents on staff to help first-time home buyers navigate the purchasing process.

Acts Housing ensures that a buyer is finding the right home for their specific situation and needs. Some purchases are ready for immediate move-in, but as many of these buyers have modest means, some purchases may be foreclosures or fixer-uppers.

Because of this, Acts Housing also offers home-rehab counseling services. Many people in these situations would never even consider taking on a home remodel because of the investment or skills required. But with Acts Housing’s resources, they’re equipped to save a significant amount of money doing the renovations themselves.

Families who participate in the program also stand to save more money on a monthly basis, as compared to renting. Acts Housing reported savings of up to $200 per month. 

From Homeless to Homeowner

Speaking of her experience purchasing a home with Acts Housing, Christina Patterson explains, “Buying a home is scary. It’s a big decision, and to have someone show you how it all works is amazing.”

Christina is a single mother of two boys who was diagnosed with Chiari Malformation in 2012 and was forced to undergo emergency brain surgery. After surgery, Christina was unable to work and ultimately lost her job and home. Christina and her family, at one point, were forced to live under a bridge before finding temporary housing in a homeless shelter.

Christina worked hard to get on her feet, go back to school, and provide for her sons. When the Acts Housing team decided to expand their services to Christina’s hometown of Beloit, Wisconsin, they chose to pilot the new program with her family.

At Acts Housing, Christina worked with a counselor to review her credit and finances. She developed a budget, learned how to improve her credit, and was eventually approved for a home loan.

Next, she was paired with a real estate agent and together, with her boys, began house hunting. They decided on a fixer-upper, but equipped with a home-rehab counselor from Acts Housing, Christina knew they could make it their own.

Christina Patterson and her family could have easily fallen through the cracks of the system, but Acts Housing provided the support she needed to find affordable housing and become a homeowner instead of a statistic.

Expanding to Spread Hope

The team at Acts Housing has a tradition: when first-time home buyers complete the program, they ring a ceremonial doorbell. To date, new homeowners have rung the doorbell over 2,600 times, with over 860 of those being home rehab projects like Christina’s.

This innovative, one-stop real estate shop is giving first-time home buyers the support they need to view homeownership as an achievable reality, rather than a distant fantasy. Because of their model’s incredible success and potential, the folks at Acts Housing are partnering with Stand Together to broaden their horizons to other cities throughout the U.S.

As their model continues to expand, they also spread hope for more families to experience the pride of having a place to call “home.”

For more interesting news about the people and ideas that are changing our world, subscribe to Freethink.

About Stand Together

Stand Together helps social entrepreneurs supercharge their efforts by connecting them with passionate partners and the resources necessary to make a greater difference.

Through Stand Together’s philanthropic community, they’re tackling some of the nation’s biggest challenges so that every person has the opportunity to realize their full potential.

Learn more about getting support for your business, or become a partner today at

Subscribe to Freethink for more great stories