The Same Yellow Home
Swayzine and James drove by the same yellow home on 29th street for years. As they drove by, they talked about what it would be like to live in it.
During this time, they were living in an apartment, but years before, they too lived in a house. James had a steady job at a factory, until one day in the early 1990s, the company shut down his plant. Because of this, they had to leave that house and move into an apartment.
Then, almost 10 years later, Swayzine, James, and their children moved from their apartment into their Habitat home. The same home they had driven past years prior and admired from the street. The same yellow home.
In the early days of the organization, Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity rehabilitated homes for Milwaukee families. They bought homes that needed significant repairs, fixed them, and then sold them to Milwaukee families for an affordable mortgage. Milwaukee Habitat acquired the yellow home because of a house fire that caused damage to the upstairs.
Swayzine said that Milwaukee Habitat tore the house down to the studs in one week and built it up in nine months.
As they were building up the home, Milwaukee Habitat asked Swayzine and James if they wanted the house to be gray on the outside. Swayzine, loving the yellow that they had admired years prior, asked if it could be yellow.
“They said, ‘yellow it is’,” Swayzine said. “It was an answer to a prayer.”
They moved into the home in 2002 with five of their seven children.
“At night when we would go to sleep, I’d wake up my husband and say ‘is this real?’” Swayzine said. “I’d ask ‘Are we going to be put out in six months?’’”
James would respond saying ‘No, we’re not going to get put out…Swayzine, don’t you see? God has blessed us.’
“We were givers,” Swayzine said. “When you are a giver, you get. But we weren’t used to getting. I wasn’t accustomed to it.”
Swayzine said that when they lost their first house years ago, they were embarrassed and ashamed. This new home brought them a new sense of hope.
“The blessing was God gave us better than what we had in the beginning,” Swayzine said. “It brought a sense of pride and hope. When you lose one thing, He will restore it.”
Since day one of moving into their home, James made sure to keep it up.
“James taught us if you don’t take care of your property, you’ll have a rundown shack,” Swayzine said.
Swayzine described him as a “visionary” when it came to home repairs and upkeep. Every year, James had a list of things that needed to be done on the home, and every time a repair was needed, he had the money ready.
“He saved,” Swayzine said. “I’m still finding wallets with money. Everywhere I go.”
Now, the upkeep of the home falls on Swayzine.
James passed away on August 3rd, 2023.
James was in hospice care in their home. Swayzine said she could tell he was in pain, but still holding on. She knew she had to reassure him that the family would be okay.
“That morning, I walked toward his bed,” Swayzine said. “I told him it would be okay…and he left.”
He passed away at 6:03pm.
“Someone came to pronounce him dead,” Swayzine said. “He said he could feel the Holy Spirit here.”
Swayzine and James kept their faith close. James spent years as a preacher and their dream was to have a house big enough to have 19 people around the table for bible study. Their Habitat home gave them that.
“The house has been used to administer to everybody,” Swayzine said. “Whoever wants to come, he taught bible study.”
James kept great care of the home not only for his family, but to welcome others who wanted to learn and connect with God.
“I would like to continue his dream to keep up the home and to give people hope,” Swayzine said.
Swayzine continued her late husband’s work as soon as she could. A little over a month after his passing, Swayzine came back to Milwaukee Habitat to help repair their home. Through our Critical Repair Program, Swayzine is getting their porch repaired at an affordable price.
Through our Critical Home Repair program, homeowners can get up to 80% of the project costs covered based on income, a 0% interest loan on repairs, and flexible repayment options.
The organization that once helped them become homeowners, is now helping Swayzine keep it up in her husband’s honor.
Swayzine is grateful for Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity and the role Milwaukee Habitat played in their life and homeownership journey.
“The house is beautiful,” Swayzine said. “I’m thanking God. I’m proud to be a Habitat Homeowner.”
Now, Swayzine can continue her husband’s dream in the same home they had driven past years prior and admired from the street. The same yellow home.