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Mom of 4 on course to own a home, but it's a long haul

Kimberly Brown ordered up Apple Jacks cereal and milk for her sons before the start of her 12-hour workday.

She grabbed her bag and hustled out of her government-subsidized rental, past her screeching parrots, past the mover's boxes stacked behind the living room couch.

Brown is working with Habitat for Humanity of Broward to buy her first home. Construction on her home will begin sometime next year. But she'll have to leave her town home in Deerfield Beach by February because the Broward County Housing Authority will tear down the low-income units to build mostly single-family homes around $250,000.

Brown will shift her family from one home she doesn't own, to another where she'll still pay rent, not a mortgage, while she waits for a home she longs to own.

"I'm planning on having a housewarming party, " said Brown, 36, a mother of two teenage girls and two young boys. "I think about that all the time."

More than 350 residents in Schooler Humphries Villas, a development of 68 single-family and 44 town homes, will have to relocate by the first part of next year, said Kevin Cregan, the housing authority's executive director. Families will get Section 8 vouchers and the housing authority will continue to subsidize their rents, Cregan said. "We'll pay all their moving costs, including utility and security deposits, " he said.

Brown will get a list of homes to pick from. She has no idea where she'll be living, but hopes to stay in the area.

She juggles raising four kids and long work days. But she refuses to give up on her dream of owning her own home. The boys could have a backyard and the girls could have their own rooms. Brown wants to put floodlights in her front yard and drape the house with Christmas decorations around the holidays. "That's a blessing, " Brown said of the home. 'It's all in the hands of God."

Habitat for Humanity, an international organization, helps low-income people buy homes. With donations and volunteer labor, Habitat offers interest-free mortgages. Applicants must earn 50 percent or less of Broward's median income, which is close to $60,000.

The process takes one to two years. Brown started the program this January. She raises her children - Steanna, 16, Alicia, 18, Tyler, 6, and Major, 9 - on her small salary as a library aide at the Broward County Library.

So far, she has completed more than 350 of the required 500 volunteers hours at the Habitat Re- Store and construction sites to make it on list to be assigned a lot this summer. She was No. 18 then.

"I am [number] 10 now, " she said.

Meanwhile, as she waits, she hopes Steanna, whom they call Cee Cee, will pay more attention to her studies.

Brown learned this year that Cee Cee was skipping ninth-grade classes at Fort Lauderdale High School, meeting friends, leaving on the city bus and sometimes ending up at the beach.

Brown continues to struggle with keeping her daughter out of trouble. She sent Cee Cee to Police Impact, a one-week nonresidential paramilitary boot camp run by the Lauderhill police. She took on new chores like cleaning the kitchen, graduated and pledged to change.

But the teen, once an honor roll student, got suspended again on Nov. 30 for 10 days for skipping classes that month, Brown said. She didn't find out about the suspension until she got a letter from school a few days later.

Cee Cee already has to repeat ninth grade. Brown may send her to a six-month boot camp in North Florida. Brown warns her: "You can't get a job these days without a decent education."

The boot camp is unnecessary, according to Cee Cee "It's something she wants." Cee Cee said.

Brown appeared weary, but her voice seemed stronger than the strain. "They're still good kids. I'm going stay on them, regardless of whether they like it or not, " she said. "That's what a mother does."

JOURNEY TO HOMEOWNERSHIP: KIMBERLY BROWN'S PROGRESS

* Required: 500 volunteer hours. Completed: 355.Brown was put on a waiting list in summer 2005 to be assigned a lot. She could get a lot in eight to nine months. Her home could be finished six to eight months later.

* Required: Work three times a month for Habitat "sweat equity" volunteer hours. On schedule.

* Required: Attend monthly workshops on topics such as how a mortgage works, preventive healthcare and maintaining your new home: On schedule.

* Attendance: On schedule.

* Required: Deposit of $125 a month into a Habitat account, up to $1,500 to pay taxes and insurance for the first year of her mortgage. On schedule. Deposited $1,000.

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