Family overcomes struggles to move into new home

CHAMPAIGN — Lynelle Loy has known life as a longtime addict, a mom separated from her children, and a woman without a home.

But she worked hard to make changes, and her work is paying off just in time for Christmas with a new home for her and her children.

Loy, 42, of Champaign, will move into a brand new three-bedroom rental house with her two kids on Thursday, yet another step in her journey that has included kicking drugs and alcohol, getting her children back and proving she can be a dependable rent-paying tenant, she says.

Loy and her kids are among a handful of families moving into affordable, newly-built rental homes provided through a partnership between Champaign's city neighborhood stabilization program and the Center for Women in Transition.

"It means so much," Loy said Wednesday at a reception at her home thrown by the Center for Women in Transition. "I'm so very, very grateful. I've put in a lot of hard work."

Cynthia Hulsizer, interim executive director of the Center for Women in Transition, said there have been six homes made available to the agency through the city program: one duplex, three houses with three bedrooms, and one four-bedroom home.

The two-unit home has been occupied for a year, Hulsizer said.

Including the Loy family, two of the three-bedroom homes are taken, and she hopes to get two more families into the three-bedroom and four-bedroom homes before Christmas, she said.

"This is an important project," she said. "This is affordable rent."

The agency offers up to two years of shelter and supportive serves for up to 19 women and 28 children at its transitional housing program, but wants to be able to help more women and children achieve the stability and empowerment of being able to live in their own homes.

A brand new house like the Loys' home would otherwise rent for $1,000 a month, but the family will rent it from the Center for Women in Transition for $625 a month, Hulsizer said.

And each of the two children, Lydia Loy, 9, and Billy Mason, 7, will have their own rooms, something Loy says is important at their age.

Standing in her new living room, Loy recalls the long road that got her there. That includes 25 years as an addict and her mother's call to the state Department of Children and Family Services "which changed my life," she says.

Another thing that changed her life: The recovery program she went through at The Prairie Center. She marked her "clean date" from drugs and alcohol on Sept. 20, 2010, she said.

Loy said she started out in the Center for Women in Transition's transitional housing, and had visiting rights with her children. She got them back a year ago, and the family of three moved into duplex housing, where she proved she's able to make the rent for a year. She's currently working two jobs, she says.

The city remodeled the two-unit house, and the others the agency is using for rental housing are all brand new houses that were built on lots where older houses were torn down.

All are renting from $525 to $650 a month, Hulsizer said.

The three-bedroom homes were funded with Illinois Housing Development Authority grant money, and the four-bedroom home was paid for with a grant through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to the Center for Women in Transition.

Greg Skaggs, city community development specialist, said all the properties that new or remodeled houses replaced were in foreclosure, empty or abandoned, and had been neighborhood eyesores.

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